Government Expands Protections for Chimpanzees in Laboratories: Doctors React to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Rule

The Physicians Committee
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EXPERT STATEMENT June 12, 2015
Government Expands Protections for Chimpanzees in Laboratories: Doctors React to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Final Rule

Washington—John J. Pippin, M.D., director of academic affairs for the nonprofit Physicians Committee, issues the following statement in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's June 12 announcement that all chimpanzees—captive and wild—will get expanded protections under the Endangered Species Act.

"As a physician who was invited to testify before a scientific panel examining the usefulness of chimpanzee experimentation, I’m thrilled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is upgrading protections for captive chimpanzees—including those in laboratories. For decades, chimpanzees were used in experiments with a misguided hope of developing treatments for human diseases. With this new rule, it will be very difficult for any laboratory to receive permission to use chimpanzees in such experiments.

“Protection under the Endangered Species Act is long overdue for chimpanzees in laboratories. The new status is a tremendous change that ends the unprotected current status of captive chimpanzees.

“Endangered species protection means that privately owned chimpanzees also will now likely be off-limits to invasive experiments.

“Use of chimpanzees in entertainment or as pets will likely also be severely restricted—and our wild cousins will be allowed to live in dignity.

“The Institute of Medicine panel charged with examining the necessity of chimpanzee experimentation could not find a single area of disease research for which the animals are essential.

“Chimpanzees have repeatedly proven to be poor models for many areas of human disease research, such as HIV, malaria, and other infectious diseases, neuroscience research, and cancer. The new protections for chimpanzees should cause the National Institutes of Health—the country’s largest funder of basic research—to close the door on a dark chapter of its history and expand its investment in nonanimal research methods.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee is a nonprofit health organization of 12,000 doctors. It promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

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