On January 22, 2013, an expert scientific advisory panel made 28 recommendations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on how to implement the Institute of Medicine chimp study, first requested by New Mexicans including U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Bingaman. The NIH is now accepting public comments on these recommendations through March 23.
You can read the report here in its entirety (the executive summary on pages 4 through 9 has a listing of all the recommendations) or use Animal Protection of New Mexico’s info below as a guide to draft your comments. Here are the report highlights:
- The first ten recommendations would dramatically improve living conditions for chimpanzees by increasing living space, requiring complex social groups, requiring access to forage and nesting, requiring dedicated staff members trained in positive human-animal relationships and cognitive stimulation, and more, all to “not only allow, but importantly, promote the full range of natural chimpanzee behaviors.”
- Nine of the recommendations spoke about the size and placement of NIH-owned-and-supported chimpanzee populations, stating, “The majority of NIH-owned chimpanzees should be designated for retirement and transferred to the federal sanctuary system,” a great start from the chimps’ perspective and a remarkable change from just three years ago when NIH was calling for moving more chimps into research.
However, the recommendations also state, “A small population of chimpanzees should be maintained for future potential research... [T]his colony is estimated to require approximately 50 chimpanzees.... The size and placement of this colony should be reassessed on a frequent basis (approximately every five years) to ensure that such a colony is still actually needed.”
The recommendations also ask for plans to be made now to enusre that appropriate housing conditions are available for all chimpanzees within three to five years, and that the NIH stop breeding chimpanzees for any research.
- The final nine recommendations speak about the importance of an independent oversight committee and a review process for future proposals to use chimpanzees in NIH-supported research.
While APNM and many others know that no further invasive testing on chimpanzees is acceptable, the recommendations for an independent oversight committee are interesting; They demonstrate that the expert panel believes more transparency is needed, and researchers should weigh the potential benefit to human health against the potential harm to an animal when proposing research. These concepts may seem like common sense, but they are not currently in practice for any research protocols that request to use animals.
The report states, “The current Interagency Animal Models Committee is not considered independent from other individuals and bodies that review and approve grant applications to the NIH, contains no members of the public, and thus does not fully meet the spirit of the IOM principles and criteria.”
Fill out the required fields (name and email address) on the NIH chimp comments page.
Scroll to the bottom of the chimp comments page, to the section titled “Overall Comments.”
Use the “Draft Comments” below to copy-and-paste into the “Overall Comments” field. Review that your information is entered correctly, then scroll down and fill in the “To ensure the integrity of your response” security code and click the “Save Survey” button at the very bottom of the page.
You may also use your own words to talk about why all chimpanzees in laboratories should be moved to sanctuaries. For those who have closely followed the issue of chimpanzees in research, you may enjoy taking time to read the report in full before making comments on each of the individual recommendations.
Be sure to send in your comments as soon as possible!
The National Institutes of Health stated at their January 22, 2013 meeting that they will announce their plans regarding chimpanzees at the end of March.
The members of the Council of Councils Working Group on the Use of Chimpanzees in NIH-Supported Research should be commended for their hard work and detailed recommendations for how to implement the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) report, Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity.
As you consider the recommendations, I request that you permanently retire all of the chimpanzees at the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), along with the 24 chimpanzees previously housed at APF who were transferred to the Texas Biomedical Research Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The 169 federally-owned chimpanzees in New Mexico have been an inactive research population for over a decade. All of these chimpanzees, along with the 24 chimpanzees in San Antonio, have been subjected to years, many of them decades, of invasive research and are in poor health. This group of 193 chimpanzees should not be considered as subjects for any potential future research.
Please work with New Mexicans to evaluate the APF and its capacity to house chimpanzees as a sanctuary, in line with the ethologically appropriate physical and social environments outlined in the recommendations. The federal government has spent millions of dollars on the APF, and there are dedicated employees, some of whom have known the APF chimpanzees for many years, seeking a solution beneficial to chimps and taxpayers.
I also request that you forever end the breeding of chimpanzees for any research given the abundance of scientific and ethical arguments against the use of chimpanzees in invasive testing and the many nontraditional settings, including sanctuaries in the U.S. and Africa, where noninvasive studies that do not harm chimpanzees may take place. Please emphasize the development and refinement of non-animal models for research on new, emerging, and re-emerging diseases.
Please also accept and expand the recommendations for establishing a transparent oversight committee and using a cost-benefit analysis. The public has lent a strong voice to the issue of chimpanzees in research, resulting in an independent overview of the past 10 years of research using chimpanzees by the IOM, which led to these working group recommendations, and the ending of many wasteful grants using chimps in research. More public oversight will advance the replacement of animals in laboraties with humane, effective non-animal models.