The National Institutes of Health today announced that 310 captive chimpanzees will be retired from medical research. Genetic and behavioral studies may continue in sanctuary settings, but no longer will those chimpanzees be forced to undergo procedures that would be unconscionable if performed in humans.
Up to 50 chimpanzees will be kept in reserve for possible use in future medical experiments, a likelihood that disturbs animal welfare advocates. That decision will, however, be revisited every five years. It’s possible that government-supported medical experiments on chimpanzees will come to an end altogether.
“Chimpanzees are very special animals. They are our closest relatives,” said NIH director Francis Collins at a press conference. “We believe they deserve special consideration.”
“It’s overwhelming to hear this commitment,” said Kathleen Conlee, animal research director with the Humane Society of the United States. “I’m so happy for the chimps that we’re moving in the right direction.” Even so, she’s more measured than Collins in her enthusiasm.
"Some would call it happiness, but I like to think that what I found is me. That sounds simple enough, but the truth is, it took quite a while to do it."
- Willie Nelson
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