A bi-partisan group in Congress today introduced The Great Ape Protection Act to end invasive research and testing on an estimated 1,200 chimpanzees remaining in U.S. laboratories. The bill would also retire approximately 600 federally owned chimpanzees currently in laboratories — many for more than 40 years already — to permanent sanctuary. U.S. Representatives Edolphus Towns ( D-N.Y. ), David Reichert ( R-Wash. ), Jim Langevin ( D-R.I. ), and Roscoe Bartlett ( R-Md. ) introduced the legislation, along with Bruce Braley ( D-Iowa ), Tom Allen ( D-Maine ), John Campbell ( R-Calif. ) and Mary Bono Mack ( R-Calif. ) also as original cosponsors.
According to Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, “The remarkable cognitive ability of chimpanzees makes this an urgent moral issue requiring immediate action in Congress.”
Theodora Capaldo, EdD, president and executive director of NEAVS’ Project R&R: Release and Restitution for Chimpanzees in U.S. Laboratories, added, “With passage of this bill, the United States will join other scientifically advanced nations that have already banned or severely limited the use of chimpanzees, and all great apes, in research. It’s the right thing to do. It’s time.”
“I have always been a strong supporter of animal protection,” said Representative Towns. “This legislation is an important step towards protecting chimpanzees from inhumane treatment.”
Representative Reichert added, “I’m excited to bring this bill to the attention of the House with hopes of phasing out the inhumane and unproductive practice of invasive research on great apes.”
The bill is supported by The Humane Society of the United States and NEAVS’ Project R&R along with other organizations and world-renowned chimpanzee experts and leaders. The HSUS Chimps Deserve Better Campaign and NEAVS’ Project R&R have spearheaded efforts to educate the public about the use of chimpanzees in research and testing, drawing unprecedented support for this bill not only from the public but also from more than 300 scientists, physicians and educators.
The U.S. is the largest remaining user of chimpanzees in biomedical research in the world. England, Sweden, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria and Japan have banned or limited their use. The cost to U.S. taxpayers for chimpanzee research and maintenance is estimated at $20 – 25 million per year, money that many in the scientific community believe could be allocated to more effective research.
“As a scientist who worked with chimpanzees on research projects, I believe the time has come to limit invasive research on these animals and rigorously apply existing alternatives,” stated Representative Bartlett.
Time is running out for chimpanzees in U.S. laboratories. An estimated 90 percent of them are considered elderly. A survey conducted in 2005 by an independent polling company found that 71 percent of the American public agrees that chimpanzees held in a laboratory for 10 years or more should be retired and that Americans are twice as likely to support a ban as to oppose it.
“I am so proud to be a sponsor of this legislation,” said Representative Langevin. “I am moved by the sophisticated social and emotional capacity chimpanzees exhibit and believe we have an obligation to do all we can to protect their welfare.”
The HSUS and NEAVS’ Project R&R are encouraged by the strong, receptive support legislators are giving this bill.