Medical research relies heavily on animals — especially chimpanzees. Their obvious resemblance to humans makes them an easy target. Nonetheless, research in the United States severely damages the chimps physically and mentally, as can be seen in this video. According to a recent New York Times article, Congress is considering the termination of such testing. However, chimps aren’t the only animals suffering from invasive research, and we must begin looking into new methods of research to save millions of innocent creatures.
Of course, eliminating testing for just one species is a very important step — if Congress can manage to reach an agreement. Advocacy groups’ constant bombardments have finally begun to make an impact as real moves to halt chimp testing may be coming within a year; other species will have to wait their turn.
However, many still support animal testing, citing innumerable biomedical research successes. Chimps have been extremely helpful in assisting scientists to discover cures and treatments for various harmful diseases. For example, chimp research has led to the vaccine for hepatitis B, a disease that affects 170 million people worldwide.
However, despite the medical benefits, chimpanzees should not continue to suffer. Chimps subject to testing must live a life of total boredom — though some chimps are not so lucky. Those used in intensive biomedical research endure procedures that cause serious mental and physical damage. The chimps become extremely distressed, angrily attacking their barren cages and screeching at those around them.
Taking this alarming information into account and finally recognizing that the U.S. is the only developed country that has not banned chimp testing, Congress has drafted a bill that would prevent invasive research on all great apes. The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011 (GAPCSA) would prohibit, among other things, invasive research on great apes. It defines “‘great ape’ as any chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, orangutan, or gibbon” and “‘invasive research’ as research that may cause death, injury, pain, fear, or trauma to great apes.” The act, though progressive, is long overdue.
Chimps and other apes have been suffering for decades to benefit humans and receive nothing in return. And recently, new research has proven that chimps are not necessary for successful medical developments. According to a New York Times article, doctors discovered a possible cure for HIV from the experience of a leukemia patient Berlin. The patient underwent two bone marrow transplants from a donor lacking CCR5, a protein that, if missing, gives the person natural immunity to HIV. This same method has now been used on HIV patients to see if the cure will last. Chimps have obviously been helpful in the past, but our technology has moved beyond their necessity in science.
Unfortunately, other test animals are not receiving the same attention from the government. Other innocent creatures continue to sacrifice their lives in the search for needed cures and vaccines. According to a Washington Post article, a recent study used mice to test out their new HIV vaccine. Scientists still use non-apes extensively for research and show no signs of stopping.
According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), over 100 million animals suffer every year from various tests, lessons, and experiments. They sit in barren cages with no entertainment, developing neurotic behaviors like pulling out their own hair and pacing for hours. After years of suffering, almost all of these animals will die. While apes finally gain recognition, other, less human-like animals remain pushed to the side.
The new bill to combat ape-testing will — if passed — be a great step towards animal protection. However, our nation needs to consider the millions of other animals suffering every day at the hands of scientists. We obviously cannot halt animal research, as we do not currently have an alternative. However, the GAPCSA brings forward the need to protect animal rights. We must begin to invest in finding a new way to do research so that millions of animals will not be forced to endure our invasive research at their expense.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons