Ending Chimp Research was "Right"—So Why Not End It All?

Mike Ryan, December 12, 2018

In 2010, at the request of 3 great Senators (Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, and Tom Harkin of Iowa), the Institute of Medicine (IOM) studied whether chimpanzee biomedical research was justified. (Notice they didn’t ask the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct its own assessment.)

Survey said? Yes, chimp experiments can be ended

To no one’s surprise, the IOM experts concluded that the vast majority of chimpanzee experiments taking place were “scientifically unjustified”, and mentioned that the alternative technologies available now can replace this suffering:
        “[t]he present trajectory indicates a decreasing scientific need for chimpanzee studies due to the emergence of non-chimpanzee models and technologies.”

Your comments helped, too

NIH put the notion of ending chimpanzee experiments up for public comment, and over 12,500 people just like you and me weighed in on the NIH website, with the vast majority asking NIH to end chimpanzee experiments.

NIH finally agreed to end chimp experiments

Ultimately, NIH agreed with this assessment and announced an end to chimpanzee experiments. NIH Director Francis Collins described ending chimpanzee experiments as “the right thing to do.”. Of course, we’re enormously grateful to the authors of that wonderfully honest IOM report, and to NIH for doing the right thing and ending funding for any experiments in which chimpanzees are isolated, experimented on, and later euthanized.

But why not end experimentation on all primates?

This issue remains unexplored.

If ending experiments on one kind of primate is “the right thing to do” why isn’t it the “right thing to do” to spare all non-human primates from suffering and dying in isolating, painful medical experiments?

What in NIH’s mind is the difference between a chimpanzee and other kinds of non-human primates? As former primate researcher Prof. John Gluck has stated, “The extensive capacity for pain, suffering and distress is present throughout the primate order. Therefore continuing the support for research on other primate species without a similar IOM-type assessment is simply ethically incoherent.”

This question matters because this problem isn’t shrinking, it’s growing; The number of non-human primates overall suffering in medical experiments in the U.S. isn’t reducing. The number is increasing and just hit a record high.

Your comments helped end chimpanzee experiments, and now we need you to remind NIH that their same reasoning applies to all non-human primates. Let NIH know that investing in non-animal alternatives is the right thing to do.