While Save the Chimps was releasing the last group of chimps to arrive at STC FL onto their new island home, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) was releasing its report on chimpanzees in biomedical research. The report itself can be found here. In summary, it found that continued widespread use of chimpanzees in biomedical research was not necessary, but that some specific areas of research, such as hepatitis C and monoclonal antibodies, may continue to require chimpanzees. The committee also recommended additional oversight of research on chimpanzees.
The report was widely viewed as a victory for chimpanzees, albeit a partial one. Following the report’s release, NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins made a startling announcement: The NIH would suspend the issuance of new grants for chimpanzee research, and review current protocols using stricter guidelines recommended by the IOM. Dr. Collins estimated that half of current chimpanzee research projects may not meet the criteria established by the IOM.
Although the report and the NIH’s response does not mean that biomedical research on chimpanzees has come to an end, the developments are significant. Some chimps in laboratories, including those chimps at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (whose fate triggered the IOM report) are being given a reprieve. The report was covered extensively in the media, raising awareness of chimpanzee issues like never before. This has provided momentum to efforts to secure the retirement—with the necessary resources and funds provided by institutions that used the chimps, not by those that rescue them–of all chimpanzees currently living in US research laboratories.
In the meantime, blissfully unaware of the controversy surrounding their species, the last group of chimps to make the journey from STC NM to STC FL are enjoying their retirement, and getting used to the feeling of grass and earth beneath their feet. They made it—and we hope their brethren still in laboratories are provided the same deserved opportunity for a peaceful retirement in the future.
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