Thursday, 24 November 2011

Stop wasting tax dollars on chimp abuse

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 10 years. 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. On Aug. 11, a public workshop was convened by the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine Chimpanzee Committee, which was commissioned by the NIH to determine if chimpanzees are "necessary" for biomedical research.

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