U.S. Works to Ban Research on Chimps, Man’s “Closest Relatives”
Keeping its promise to protect man’s “closest relatives” the Obama Administration is moving quickly to eradicate valuable biomedical research on chimpanzees at the request of leftist animal rights groups.
The move to ban chimp research started nearly a year ago when the administration quietly proposed to include chimpanzees on the U.S. government’s endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on it and in case the agency doesn’t come through, the president got his Democratic pals in Congress to introduce legislation to officially make the primates endangered.
A consortium of influential animal rights groups are behind the chimp research ban. More than a year ago they delivered a lengthy petition demanding the government upgrade captive chimpanzees from threatened to endangered status which would ban scientists from using the approximately 1,000 chimps available for biological and behavioral studies in the U.S. The petition also asks that chimps be barred from the entertainment industry and forbidden from being kept in private zoos or as personal pets.
The animal rights groups assert that the chimpanzee is an “imperiled species” that’s being exploited. One of the nation’s largest mainstream newspapers went so far as to write that, to many people, chimps “look like relatives behind bars.”
Caving into the animal rights movement could put millions of human lives at stake because it would forbid the sort of biomedical research that has helped produce life-saving vaccines for diseases such as Hepatitis B. Chimps are also essential in AIDs research and the hope of developing an elusive vaccine against the deadlier Hepatitis C, an infectious viral disease that leads to swelling of the liver and plagues tens of millions of people worldwide.
The reason chimps are so valuable to medical researchers is that they share many similarities to humans, including more than 98% of the genetic code. In fact, chimps are the only known animal other than humans that can become infected with AIDS, the lethal virus that destroys the immune system. In short, research on chimpanzees helps topnotch scientists find cures and ultimately eradicate diseases.
None of this seems to matter to the Obama Administration, which announced this month that the government is retiring 110 of its 563 research chimpanzees as it works towards killing the program altogether. The announcement was made by the director (Francis Collins) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the government agency that funds medical and behavioral research.
Collins tells a mainstream newspaper that it’s a significant step in winding down the NIH’s investment in chimp research based on the way science has evolved and “our great sensitivity to the special nature of these remarkable animals, our closest relatives.” The head of a national animal rights group pushing to end all medical research on chimps said he was “very pleased” with the move.