Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Act Now to Protect Great Apes

by Mat Thomas –

"It's about the money. There's big bucks in this research, especially chimp research. We're talking millions. Millions of dollars."
– Narriman Fakier, former employee of New Iberia Research Center turned whistleblower

In March 2009, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released shocking video footage depicting the severe abuse of primates at New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) in Louisiana, where new medical and pharmaceutical treatments designed for humans are tested on more than 6,000 monkeys and chimpanzees.

The exposé documents an undercover investigator's nine-month stint posing as a lab tech, using hidden cameras to bring Big Science's dirty little secret to light: that researchers routinely violate basic animal welfare laws.

Torturing and killing our closest genetic cousins is not the only (or even best) way to understand our own medical maladies, and yet it continues, funded by our taxes: why?

One reason is that animal research is extremely profitable. Between 2000 and 2009, the National Institutes of Health granted NIRC more than $17 million in federal funds to conduct research on chimpanzees — public money they used to viciously persecute primates, both within and beyond the law, and often for decades on end. In this case, the government took appropriate action, with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack ordering an investigation of NIRC's operations and pledging to punish anyone found guilty of Animal Welfare Act violations.

But while NIRC is one of the nation's larger primate research centers, it's trespasses only represent the tiny tip of vivisection's animal cruelty iceberg — what remains buried beneath the depths of deception is perhaps even worse, and the U.S. government clearly doesn't have the means to police every facility all the time.

Thankfully, Congress is now considering a pragmatic and compassionate solution: the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326). This bipartisan bill would phase out invasive research on great apes, ban the breeding of these primates for experimentation, and permanently retire hundreds of chimpanzees to sanctuaries.

There is strong public support for the bill — for instance, nearly two-thirds of respondents to an online survey indicated support — but powerful medical research institutions that would lose hundreds of millions in revenue if H.R. 1326 becomes law are also working hard to kill it.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) is one of many scientific associations that fears having their inalienable American "right" to sacrifice defenseless animals on the altar of medicine restricted. Recently, SfN emailed its members a "Call to Action" urging them to tell their Federal Representatives to oppose the Great Ape Protection Act.

Their sample letter to Congress even pretends to care about non-human species by emphasizing the "number of protections in place to ensure the welfare and well-being of these animals" — conspicuously ignoring the fact that existing laws are not being obeyed or enforced, as the video evidence from inside New Iberia and other primate research labs makes so painfully clear.

Make a difference: Call and write your Federal Representative urging him or her to co-sponsor and vote YES on the Great Ape Protection Act.

1 comment:

jerry said...

love to see this discussion! It’s great to see you all working through the issues and also, it’s great to see recommendations for testing. In the end, it’s what your actual users do and prefer that should be your biggest driver in making these decisions.

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