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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Coming ATLA article shows chronic illness and causes of death in laboratory chimpanzees

ChimpData from 110 autopsies carried out on chimpanzees who died in, or were from, US laboratories in the last 10 years has shown that two thirds of them had significant chronic illnesses or multi-organ diseases.


The findings will be published in the next issue of FRAME's scientific journal ATLA (Alterntatives to Laboratory Animals) Volume 40 (5).


No experiments have been carried out on chimpanzees in UK laboratories for decades and a policy ban on their use was introduced in 1997.

While the use of chimpanzees in the US is at an historic low, and a 2011 US National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine study saw no necessity for chimpanzee use in most areas of current research, just under 1000 chimpanzees  are still housed and maintained in laboratories for possible research use.   There are a number of campaigns underway in the US at the moment in a bid to bring about an end to chimpanzee experiments.


The 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (CHIMP Act) says laboratories have an ethical and scientific responsibility to retire chimpanzees to sanctuary when they are no longer needed for research.


The report authors say their study raises concerns that the US Secretary of Health and Human Services is allowing laboratories to circumvent that responsibility.


In a press release issued by the New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), co-author Marge Peppercorn said: "The recommendations by the Institute of Medicine implicitly demand an end to warehousing chimpanzees in labs. The practice is scientifically and ethically indefensible. Our review of chimpanzee deaths adds urgency to this demand.”


The release also says: "The data show a full 64% of those chimpanzees suffered significant chronic illnesses and 69% had multi-organ diseases that should have rendered them too sick for research use. Yet, despite this knowledge on the part of the laboratories, many of these chimpanzees were held in labs for research despite their poor health and unsuitability for use."


It goes on: "Documents recently obtained under the Freedom of Information Act suggest chimpanzees currently in labs face the same dire health conditions as those in the study. New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) communications regarding the pending transfer of 110 federally owned chimpanzees – recently announced by NIH Director Francis Collins – include notes indicating several of these chimps are 'geriatric' and 'chronic clinical cases.'


The records further conclude that, for some, euthanasia may be the 'responsible thing to do…rather than risk death during transport.' The list of 'who should not go' to a new facility includes Mindy who is in 'renal failure,' Jet who is an epileptic, and Sharon and Paco because 'they will not make it.” Yet, as recently announced by Dr. Collins, HHS’ National Institutes of Health intends to send only 10 to the federal sanctuary Chimp Haven and transfer the remaining 100 to another lab – even though NIH has deemed all 110 'permanently ineligible' for research.


“'While there is no reason to keep any chimpanzees in US labs, many like those on NIRC’s ‘who should not go’ list should have been sent to sanctuary years, if not decades ago,' said study co-author and NEAVS President Theodora Capaldo,  'All chimpanzees suffering chronic or incurable physical or psychological illness should be immediately released to sanctuary. While NEAVS wants all chimpanzees out of labs and safe in sanctuary, there is a triaged urgency to get those out who should be there right now because of failing health. They deserve to spend every minute of their remaining years in the comfort and safety of a healing environment.’”


Archived December 4 2012