In an op-ed in today’s New York Times, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., a former primate researcher with the U.S. Navy, made an outstanding case to the nation to phase out the use of chimpanzees in invasive research. He called for enactment of his bill, H.R. 1513—co-authored by Reps. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., James Langevin, D-R.I., and Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y.—arguing that’s it’s the right policy from a moral, scientific, and cost perspective. Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have introduced a companion bill, the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (S. 810).
The federal government is in turmoil over how to reduce our national debt, and straining to find programs to cut. Here’s a small cut, but an easy one: stop experimenting on chimps and retire the current population into sanctuaries. It will save tens of millions of tax dollars in the years ahead. Every new chimpanzee that comes into the federal research industry costs taxpayers another $1 million.
There’s just no need for the use of chimps in research, something the rest of the world has already acknowledged. As Rep. Bartlett wrote, “many new techniques are cheaper, faster and more effective, including computer modeling and the testing of very small doses on human volunteers. In vitro methods now grow human cells and tissues for human biomedical studies, bypassing the need for whole animals.”
In fact, just this week the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, is meeting to discuss alternatives to invasive chimpanzee research and the need for any such research. Speaking at the meeting, renowned primatologist Jane Goodall emphasized that it is unethical to keep these intelligent animals confined under current conditions in laboratories and that we must find a better way forward. Our senior director of animal research issues, Kathleen Conlee, also spoke at the meeting about the many effective alternatives available and the opportunity to advance human health by ending reliance on chimpanzees.
In an undercover investigation two years ago, The HSUS exposed the sad face of chimpanzee research. Most of the chimps aren’t even being used in experiments, but are just warehoused, at taxpayer expense. It was bad then, and it’s worse now to continue these programs in the face of our nation’s fiscal calamity. There’s always someone out there ready to make an excuse for the mistreatment of animals, but here’s one form of animal abuse we just cannot afford as a nation.