[includes two revisions to what was published]
Stop wasting tax
dollars on chimp abuse
Eric Kleiman | In Defense of Animals
updated: November 22, 2011
The National Institutes of Health wants you to
believe that chimpanzee experimentation is necessary. It so badly wants you to
believe this that the agency just two months ago began to use your tax dollars
to fund a propaganda campaign for "educating the public" regarding the
"importance of chimpanzees in biomedical research."
Why is the NIH
seemingly so desperate? Perhaps because the concept of ending this morally and
scientifically bankrupt practice has become so mainstream, on so many fronts -
scientific, political, ethical, financial- that on Sept. 28, Scientific
American, the most prestigious general interest science magazine in the world,
called for a ban, explaining, "Why it is time to end invasive biomedical
research on chimpanzees."
One of the major reasons for its call for the
ban was the groundbreaking McClatchy Newspapers special report "Chimps: Life in
the Lab," published last April. This special report was based on McClatchy's
independent review of thousands of pages of chimpanzee medical records.
Scientific American noted that the special report's review of these records and
the details of experiments "painted a grim picture of life in the lab, noting
disturbing psychological responses in the chimps."
The NIH's use of tax
dollars to fund the abuse of chimpanzees, as documented in McClatchy's special
report, is especially timely. Congress has created a Joint Select Committee on
Deficit Reduction to produce a plan by November 23 to reduce our debt by at
least $1.2 trillion over 10years. The NIH spends more than $30 million annually
on chimpanzee experimentation; ending it would save more than $300 million. It
would also be completely consistent with the emerging scientific, political and
ethical consensus elucidated by Scientific American: "The time has come to end
biomedical experimentation on chimpanzees."
But the NIH seems stuck in a
different time - circa 1970s, when the current chief of hepatitis research at
the NIH, Dr. Robert Purcell, began experimenting on chimpanzees, as did his
counterpart at the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Feinstone.
Just as he has done in scientific papers, Dr.
Purcell, who personifies the anachronistic mind-set of the NIH, the agency
pushing the chimpanzee "model," referred to chimpanzees as "it" - things,
furry test tubes - in his presentation to the committee.
contrast, at the same workshop, the director of HCV Biology for
GlaxoSmithKline, the program officer for research and development at the
PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative, and the director for drug safety assessment
at Genentech testified that chimpanzees are not needed for development of
cutting-edge therapies such as monoclonal antibodies and vaccines for
diseases such as malaria.
Even the FDA - which produced a letter
supporting the NIH's propaganda campaign - does not require chimpanzee data
to approve vaccines or therapies.
In September, the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service announced that a petition requesting that captive
chimpanzees be classified as "endangered" - which would effectively end
chimpanzee experimentation - presented "substantial" evidence that such are
classification may be warranted, and initiated a review of the
classification that includes a call for public comments by Jan. 31,2012.
The emerging scientific, ethical and political consensus is
clear: the time has indeed come to end experimentation on our closest
genetic relatives. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction can make
that consensus a reality while saving U.S. taxpayers $300 million.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Eric Kleiman is research director of In Defense of
Animals; he initiatedthe Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the NIH
that resulted inthe release of thousands of pages of chimpanzee medical