NIH to “Substantially Reduce” Research on Captive Chimpanzees

Posted by ALDF Guest Bloggers, Neil Abramson, Daniel Saperstein, and Kelly Anne Targett, Proskauer Rose LLP on June 26, 2013

ChimpToday, the National Institutes of Health (“NIH”) announced its intention to substantially reduce the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded biomedical research and to designate for retirement most of the chimpanzees it currently owns or supports.  In what was a banner day for captive chimpanzees in the United States, the NIH accepted most of the recommendations made by an independent advisory council tasked with implementing a set of principles and criteria proposed by the Institute of Medicine for the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded research.

As part of its deliberations, the NIH solicited and reviewed public comments on the council’s recommendations.  ALDF, represented by pro bono legal counsel from the law firm of Proskauer Rose, submitted a comment calling for an end to cruel and unnecessary behavioral and biomedical testing on chimpanzees.  Our comment emphasized that NIH policy was languishing behind the laws of many other countries, which, particularly in recent years, have banned or otherwise restricted chimpanzee-based research.  We also stressed that the NIH was out-of-step with public opinion and actions by other federal government agencies, which have embraced greater protections for captive chimpanzees.

Indeed, the NIH announcement comes on the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) proposal to reverse a nearly forty-year policy of “split-listing” chimpanzees, a practice that inharmoniously afforded endangered species protections to wild members of the species residing in Africa while simultaneously denying any protection at all to their captive counterparts living in the United States.  The NIH expects to adapt its policies to comply with the final rule issued by the FWS.

Although part of the NIH plan involves the maintenance (without breeding) of a colony of up to 50 chimpanzees for possible future biomedical research, we remain confident that the weight of history, public opinion, and international outcry ultimately will persuade the NIH to end its testing on chimpanzees once and for all.  With a ban on this expensive and counter-productive practice, the NIH could marshal its resources toward developing non-animal research models that are not only scientifically sound, but also more ethical and humane.  To echo the NIH press release, formulating behavioral and biomedical research models that are not dependent on animal testing is just “the right thing to do.”


4 thoughts on “NIH to “Substantially Reduce” Research on Captive Chimpanzees

  1. This is fantastic news. Progress at last. Now what is needed is to get NIH to discontinue research on ALL captive primates, and release ALL to a sanctuary where they can live out the remainder of their lives free from suffering. Even better, discontinue all animal research. I believe those in a more enlightened future will be horrified about the abuse of animals in the name of scientific research.

    ank you so much for the wonderful work you do, ALDF! You are true heros.

  2. HELENA says:

    USING ANIMALS FOR EXPERIMENTS IS A CRIME, USE THE OVER POPULATED DEATH ROW PRISONERS ON DEATH ROW, RESULTS FROM TESTS EILL BE MORE ACCURATE, THAN ANIMALS BUGS, ETC. IT,S RIDICULOUS USING INNOCENT ANIMALS, PUT IT ON THE DEATH ROW PRISONERS, IT WILL BE CHEAPER IN THE LONG RUN, BESIDES ALONG WITH THEIR CALLOIUSNESS ETC THEY DON,T DESERVE TO BE ALIVE

  3. HELENA says:

    USING ANIMALS FOR EXPERIMENTS IS A CRIME, USE THE OVER POPULATED DEATH ROW PRISONERS ON DEATH ROW, RESULTS FROM TESTS WILL BE MORE ACCURATE, THAN ANIMALS BUGS, ETC. IT,S RIDICULOUS USING INNOCENT ANIMALS, PUT IT ON THE DEATH ROW PRISONERS, IT WILL BE CHEAPER IN THE LONG RUN, BESIDES ALONG WITH THEIR CALLOIUSNESS ETC THEY DON,T DESERVE TO BE ALIVE

  4. Elizabeth Lanson says:

    Thank God people are finally beginning to see the light. Using Animals for painful, harmful cruel experiments is wrong. Plain and simple. I am so happy this is finally happening for chimpanzees and I hope this means the beginning of the end of cruel treatment against all animals, particularly those inhumanely used in research