NIH Committee Recommends Retiring Chimps

Funding for chimpanzee research likely to end

The deadline to submit comments to NIH regarding chimpanzee retirement has passed. AAVS will be sure to keep our supporters up-to-date, and will report on NIH’s policy changes as soon as they are announced.

On January 22, the Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research presented its final report to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Council of Councils, which voted unanimously to support the report's 28 recommendations. They call for the retirement of the majority of government-supported chimps as soon as new homes can be built and the suspension of half of all current studies using chimpanzees. If accepted by NIH, 350 chimpanzees will be immediately and permanently retired from research!

NIH has opened a 60-day comment period in which the public can weigh in on chimpanzee retirement and voice support and/or concerns about the Working Group's recommendations. We need your help to ensure that chimpanzee retirement becomes a reality!

The majority of the recommendations will make a positive impact on the lives of these animals. They include new, animal-friendly guidelines for the living conditions of all chimpanzees, requiring "ethologically appropriate physical and social environments" that "not only allow, but importantly, promote the full range of chimpanzee behaviors." These standards include living in social groups of seven or more individuals, 1,000 sq. ft. of living space per chimp, outdoor environments, nightly nesting material, and opportunities to climb and forage. Chimpanzees must be allowed to make choices and practice self-determination. Compared to the current living conditions that can be as harsh as solitary confinement in 10 ft. x 10 ft. cages, this presents a dramatic, positive shift in the care and treatment of these animals.

Additionally, although the report acknowledges that chimp research has "rarely accelerated new discoveries," it does advise maintaining a reserve colony of 50 chimpanzees "for potential future research," provided their permanent housing meets the same new quality of life standards as above. However, NIH is advised to continue its moratorium on breeding chimpanzees.

Any future proposals to use chimpanzees in research would be subject to strict criteria and reviewed by an independent oversight panel that would operate with transparency and receive input from a wide range of experts.

Comments Deadline: March 23, 2013 11:59:59 PM EDT

Ending the Use of Animals in Science