New guidelines show chimps are rarely needed for medical research
The National Institutes of Health issued new guidelines indicating that the use of chimpanzees to study diseases is rarely necessary.
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Bailey has written about the scientific consequences of this practice, which "causes major psychological and physical problems for the chimps. From a scientific perspective, it causes the chimps severe stress, which results in adverse effects on the function of the immune system and increases susceptibility to many diseases and organ dysfunctions. We know that many of the chimps available for research at the various facilities in the US are very sick; if they were human, they would not be considered for participation in clinical trials for this reason."Skip to next paragraph
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There's also the fact that the sample size is so small. Bailey has written in a paper on this topic: "most studies involve just two to four animals, meaning that the statistical significance of the data is highly questionable, and apparent differences can often be due to inherent biological variation – a factor that cannot be addressed due to the lack of availability and the expense of acquiring more individuals. Rather, there is ample evidence that HCV drug leads progress solely on the basis of in vitro efficacy models.”
Finally – and this was a question the committee specifically said it was asked not to address – chimp research is unquestionably cruel. As Wired wrote in a September article, "cognitive studies and natural observations established beyond doubt that chimpanzees are, as befits the closest living relative of humans, deeply intelligent and emotional creatures for whom captive medical research is akin to torture."
"They are highly intelligent. They live in complex social settings, and they live for a very long time," said evolutionary anthropologist Dr. Anne Pusey, as quoted by CBS.
Yet the research has continued for decades. And while the research itself is painful and ineffective, according to sources mentioned thus far and others, it is also conducted in confined laboratory environments, adding further stress to animals that are naturally designed to live in the wild –- swinging through the trees of a forest, finding their own food, building their own nests for sleeping at night.
The report's second criterion is that all experiments use "techniques that are minimally invasive, and in a manner that minimizes pain and distress." Minimally invasive is likely a subjective term and defined differently by researchers and opponents of chimp research, including Jane Goodall, who said about the conditions of one laboratory in particular: “In no lab I have visited have I seen so many chimpanzees exhibit such intense fear. The screaming I heard when chimpanzees were being forced to move toward the dreaded needle in their squeeze cages was, for me, absolutely horrifying.”
It is also virtually impossible to minimize the distress in a laboratory environment. In the August paper for NEAVS, Capaldo and Bailey also wrote: "All chimpanzees in a laboratory are, inherently and unavoidably, stressed by that environment, which has significant consequences for gene expression and related biology. This affects and confounds all data produced, over and above any inter-species differences that are present."
"If the criteria aren’t scrupulously applied... then there is a risk that little change will be effected," Bailey said in an email. "Applying the criteria stringently is imperative, if the IOM inquiry and report is to have been worthwhile."
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