110 Chimps to be Removed from Controversial Lab

On September 21, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced that 110 chimpanzees housed at the controversial New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana were declared “permanently ineligible for biomedical research.” While welcome news, it is concerning that only 10 of these chimpanzees are scheduled to be transferred to Chimp Haven, a government funded sanctuary for chimpanzees retired from research. NIH is sending the other 100 animals to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute which has been cited several times for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) regarding its care and treatment of nonhuman primates.

The 2000 Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (CHIMP Act) was created to establish a national sanctuary system for chimpanzees retired from federal research. It states that “all surplus chimpanzees owned by the federal government shall be accepted into the sanctuary system.” By sending retired chimpanzees to a lab at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, NIH is not acting in accordance with the CHIMP Act. All the chimpanzees determined to be “ineligible” for research should be sent to Chimp Haven or one of the many fine chimpanzee sanctuaries in the U.S.

NIH’s decision to retire the chimps at New Iberia was made following a news story broadcast earlier this year about an undercover investigation of the ill treatment of animals at New Iberia and reports indicating that the lab bred government owned chimpanzees in violation of an NIH moratorium on breeding. However, NIH dismissed the latter charges in August.

In December 2011, report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) entitled “Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity,” concluded that “most current use of chimpanzees is unnecessary.”

Immediately following the release of the IOM report, NIH announced that it would adopt new, strict criteria based on IOM guidelines, drastically limiting the use of chimps in federally funded research. A special advisory group to NIH is reviewing the 38 government funded research studies that currently use chimpanzees in order to decipher their ‘necessity’ and outline rules for future use of chimps in research. Its recommendations are expected in January.
Ending the Use of Animals in Science