WASHINGTON, January 23 (RIA Novosti) - Government scientists from the United States, the only country that keeps chimpanzees for medical research, have recommended that hundreds of chimps be permanently retired from laboratories and moved to a national sanctuary.
“At last, our federal government understands: A chimpanzee should no more live in a laboratory than a human should live in a phone booth,” the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said in a statement after a committee from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) issued a report Tuesday urging that more than 400 chimpanzees be moved from US research facilities to Chimp Haven, a federally funded sanctuary located in a Louisiana forest.
The committee recommended that a majority of the chimpanzees used for biomedical and behavioral research should be retired, except for 50 that will remain in laboratories, since these apes “could still serve an important role in some areas of research but in these areas, the research must be governed by a set of principles and criteria,” the NIH report stated.
The committee recommended that in order for federal funding to be used for future chimpanzee research, only studies that could not be done with people or other animals would be considered. Current chimp projects would be allowed to be completed.
The committee said the chimps that remain for scientific research must be kept in an area that is at least 1,000 square feet (93 square meters) per chimp, and provide outdoor access year round that has “grass, dirt, and mulch, to enhance environmental complexity,” the study said.
Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research issues with the US Humane Society told the Associated Press(AP) she was disappointed with the committee’s recommendation to keep a group of chimps for further research.
“But I’m glad they made clear those animals should be kept to much higher standards than they are currently being kept in,” she told the AP.
The report also calls for laboratories to stop breeding chimps for future research.
The process that led to these recommendations began in 2010 when NIH began to review whether chimpanzees were “needed to advance the public’s health,” the report stated.
Through its investigations, the committee has found that the “chimpanzee has been a valuable animal model in the past” but that “most current biomedical use of chimpanzees is unnecessary.”
After the report was released on Tuesday, nine chimps were moved from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana to Chimp Haven with seven more primates expected to be moved this week and another 95 will arrive over the coming months, the AP reported.
The European Union banned chimpanzee research in 2010, which left the United States and the African nation of Gabon as the only countries with chimpanzee medical research programs, until last year when Gabon ended chimp research, The Washington Post reported.
NIH Director Francis Collins has 60 days to decide on the committee’s recommendations.