Legal Petition Demands End to Solitary Confinement and Invasive Experiments
WASHINGTON—A Maryland laboratory is unlawfully placing chimpanzees in solitary confinement and using them in unnecessary experiments, argues a Petition for Enforcement Action filed May 31 with the federal government by two physicians and a veterinarian.
Based on documents provided to the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) says the chimpanzees at Bioqual, Inc., in Rockville, Md., are suffering physical and psychological harm in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Documents reveal that the laboratory has continually singly housed a high percentage of its chimpanzees for nearly three years, and likely for much longer. On Aug. 26, 2010, the National Institutes of Health Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare informed Bioqual that the company was in violation of the Animal Welfare Act for not pairing chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates and demanded an aggressive plan of correction. As of April 8, 2011, the number of singly housed chimpanzees remained high—12 out of 25.
“Bioqual has been blatantly flouting the law right under the federal government’s nose,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C., a cardiologist and spokesperson for PCRM. “Chimpanzees are intelligent, social beings who deserve better than a life of solitary confinement punctuated with cruel, invasive procedures. And these experiments do nothing to advance human health.”
PCRM’s Petition for Enforcement Action requests that the U.S. Department of Agriculture investigate Bioqual, find the company in violation of the Animal Welfare Act, and levy substantial fines. The legal petition also points out that invasive experiments on chimpanzees are not necessary for human health research.
In December 2011, a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine issued the report Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity, concluding that chimpanzees are, “…largely unnecessary as research subjects.” Dr. Pippin was invited to testify at the panel’s first hearing and provided information to panel members for several months as they wrote their report.
On June 5, 2012, the National Institutes of Health’s Council of Councils held a meeting, and during an open session it will provide an update on the Working Group on Chimpanzees in NIH Supported Research. The working group was formed to implement the recommendations issued by the Institute of Medicine.
Congress is now considering the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, a bill in line with the Institute of Medicine report that would phase out invasive chimpanzee experimentation in the United States, the only country that still conducts large-scale experiments on chimpanzees, our closest living relatives.
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.