NIH Moves to Retire Most Government-Owned Chimpanzees
The National Institutes of Health announced its decision this summer to retire most government-owned chimpanzees. Over the past several years, the Physicians Committee and its supporters’ letters, petitions, e-mails, calls, testimonies, op-eds, and other outreach played an important role in this landmark decision.
NIH director Francis Collins, M.D., accepted the recommendations of the Council of Councils Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research, which earlier this year recommended that nearly all federally owned chimpanzees in laboratories be retired to sanctuaries. Its recommendations were based on a landmark Institute of Medicine report that could not find a single area of disease research for which the animals are essential.
Now, nearly all current NIH-funded chimpanzee experiments will be phased out, NIH-supported privately owned chimpanzees will be subject to the same funding limitations, and the barrier to new invasive research on chimpanzees will be very high.
The Physicians Committee’s director of academic affairs John Pippin, M.D., testified before the IOM panel examining the usefulness of chimpanzee experimentation and was delighted with NIH’s decision. “Scarce government research funding should now be redirected to human-relevant methods including organ-on-a-chip technology, stem cells, and population studies,” said Dr. Pippin.
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it is proposing to classify captive chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.