In 2015, in response to public concerns about the use of chimpanzees in research and a federal report that suggested “most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary” and should be conducted according to much stricter criteria, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced it would retire all federally owned and supported chimpanzees from research and relocate them to the federally supported Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. Also in 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finally extended to captive chimpanzees the full spectrum of protections under the Endangered Species Act and restricted their use in experiments to those in which researchers could argue the experiments directly benefited chimpanzees themselves.
Three years later, 272 chimpanzee remain in captivity at the Alamogordo Primate Facility, the Michael E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, and the Southwest National Primate Research Center, with some researchers advocating for “retirement in place” at the same facilities that exploited these self-aware, autonomous beings for years.
Today we submitted our comments on some of the recommendations contained in the NIH’s Council of Councils Working Group report on assessing the safety of relocating at-risk chimpanzees, with retirement in place presented as a viable alternative to sanctuary. In our view, retirement in place is unacceptable on every level. Our complete comments are below. You can read the recommendations and submit your own comments before midnight tonight via this link.