Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

Monkey Business

Sarah Saville

What’s the difference between an ape and a monkey? In high school I would have answered: a tail. In college I would have answered: somewhere between 3%–6% genetic differences. In law school I will answer: the amount of legal protections available to the animals.

Zoologically, great apes include bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans. As defined by proposed legislation, great apes include the gibbons of Family Hylobatidae, also known as the lesser apes. The European Union ended research on captive great apes last year. Today, there are currently several proposed measures to extend protections to captive apes in the United States. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services is currently reviewing whether or not to list all chimpanzees as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Wild chimpanzees are currently listed as endangered, but captive chimpanzees are only listed as threatened. The current “split listing” permits the use of chimpanzees in research and to be kept as pets. In April, Congressman Roscoe Bartlett introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011. If passed, the Act will retire all federally owned apes used in research and for breeding.   Continue reading

Legal Protections for Great Apes (or Lack Thereof)

Gillian Lyons

Last week, without much ado (at least from American news sources), the European Union passed a series of directives aimed at reducing the number of animals used in laboratory experiments (for BBC News’ perspective, click here).  Included in those directives was a mandate ending the use of great apes in scientific research, once again showing the EU has one-upped the United States in terms of laws promoting animal welfare.             Continue reading

Celebrities, Chimps, Vivisection — The Back From Vacation Blog Post

David Cassuto

Well, I’m back from vacation and I have a few things to report.  First, one of my favorite places: “Milsurp’s Surplus and More” has closed.  I have no idea what they sold there, never having ventured in.  Still, just knowing there was a place that was able to differentiate between surplus and more made me sleep better and wake with a smile.  Now I’ll have to look elsewhere for my reason for being.  Continue reading

Still Thinking About Dogs (and Cats Too)

Bruce Wagman

There’s so many issues that come up with dogs that I am still thinking about them.  And much of this applies to cats as well.  Let me be clear to start that I live with three dogs, five cats and one wife, and it’s the rare event that I get to sleep on my pillow (because Nzuri beats me there every night) or stretch out my legs (Rafiki) or get near the middle of the bed (Paka, Sybil).  And the ones that are not there are sleeping not just on the couches, but actually on special beds that sit atop the couches, because those big-pillowed couches are just too hard for the cats and dogs to sleep on without some other cushion.  So I am certainly a canine and feline worshipper.  The smell and feel of dog or cat fur are nectar and succor; and if one of them decides to perch on me, their presence freezes time.

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Thinking About Chimpanzees

Bruce Wagman

Lately I have been thinking about chimpanzees.  I have been fascinated by them since one spit on me as a child, and then overwhelmed by my first visit to Gombe National Park in the months before I began practicing law, when I saw their natural lives, as perfect as anything I could have imagined.  At about the same time I began to become painfully aware of their treatment by humans.  I’ve never fully returned from those first views of the Gombe chimpanzees and (on the same trip) the Rwanda gorillas, in the sense that I have always felt since that point that something had gone seriously wrong on the planet, and that my species was responsible.  What I mean is things like gorilla-hand ashtrays and chimpanzees in biomedical research where they are tortured daily, by virtue of their confinement in tiny cages with no enrichment, no stimulation for their minds, lying on metal floors alone in frightening situations.  The contrast between Gombe and that reality make heaven and hell seem like adjoining bedroom communities of the same large city.

The accepted facts are that chimpanzees have the intellectual capacity of a three- to five-year old human and their emotional lives are at least as rich and vibrant as ours.  So imagine taking any intelligent three-, four- or five-year old human that you know and locking her up, alone, in a metal cage without a toy or book or parent or sibling or friend.  Imagine then some horrible monster comes in every once in awhile and sprays her down or drags her out of her cage to be anesthetized and then dumped back in her cage.  That horror of horrors – which is legally repeated thousands of times a day for thousands of chimpanzees – is a reality that leaves me gasping for breath, fighting back tears, and feeling like I would give my life to change theirs.   Continue reading

Habeas for Chimps

David Cassuto

I will soon be blogging from Brazil (Rio de Janeiro, to be precise).  More about that soon.  While in Rio, here‘s a case I’ll be following:

Jimmy is a 26 year old chimpanzee who has spent several years alone in a cage, where he’s on exhibit at a zoo in Niterói, Brazil, just outside of Rio de Janeiro.  Just last week, animal protection groups filed a motion to have Jimmy released on grounds of Habeas Corpus, arguing that he is being denied his rights to freedom of movement and to a decent life, in Rio’s Criminal Court.  Continue reading

More Human than Humans

Michael Friese

As the years go by mankind finds that it has more in common with its ape cousins than previously thought.  The ape that humans have the most in common with is the chimpanzee.  Emory University may have closed the gap even further with a new play entitled Hominids.  In this play humans enact a true story of intrigue that occurred within a troop of chimpanzees in the 1970s.  The most interesting thing about the play is that the actors are not pretending to be chimpanzees, rather the play’s  approach is to enact the story as if it were humans upon whom the story is based.

A summary of the play is as follows:

“A conniving kingmaker and his young protégé conspire to overthrow a popular king. Their plot fails, so they murder him instead. The kingmaker then installs his protégé as ruler. The young king does not properly reward his mentor, however, so the kingmaker selects a new protégé. Together, they torment the young king to the point of madness. He throws himself into the palace moat and drowns.
The brutal power struggle reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, but it actually happened on an island of captive chimpanzees at a Holland zoo during the late 1970s.”

The implications of this play are far reaching.  It intends to leave spectators wondering what makes us human.  The play asks how different are chimpanzees than humans?  Specifically these questions have important effects on the ethics of medical testing on human’s closest relatives.  If chimpanzees’ actions are so close to human actions, then how can we justify testing on chimpanzees in situations where testing on humans would be unethical?

Chimpanzees have and are used in biomedical research because of their close genetic similarity to human beings.  In some cases chimpanzees are the only available nonhuman species that can be infected with the microorganism that is being studied.  Two well known microorganisms whose creation of vaccines depended on the testing of chimpanzees, are Hepatitis B and C.

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Innocent Woman Mauled by Chimp: Who is to Blame?

Lindsay Macleod

ChimpanzeeIn February 2009, Charla Nash, a 55-year-old woman was visiting her friend Sandra Herold in Stamford, Connecticut, when Herold’s pet chimp, Travis, suddenly attacked her. The crazed chimp tore off Nash’s nose, lips and eyelids before being shot dead by cops. Nash was left with no face or hands and is now suing Herold for $50 million. Nash appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show this week and bravely revealed what remains of her face.

This was clearly a terrible accident, and I feel horribly for Ms. Nash.  But I also feel bad for Travis, who should never have been a pet to begin with. Chimpanzees are known to possess incredible strength, with the average adult male having four to five times the upper-body strength of an adult human. They are also very difficult pets. They typically act aggressively toward their owners when they reach adulthood, and once raised by humans, they cannot be re-introduced into the wild because other chimpanzees will reject them.

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