This critical legislation would end harmful research on chimpanzees, retire the approximately 500 federally owned chimpanzees to sanctuary, and make permanent the National Institute of Health's administrative ban on the breeding of chimpanzees for research purposes.
The bill could also save nearly $200 million in taxpayer dollars.
On December 4, the sponsors of the bill—Reps. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.—sent a letter on behalf of the bill's cosponsors to House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Ca., and House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J. asking for a hearing on the Great Ape Protection Act.
Since the letter was sent, Congressional support for the bill has grown to over 130 cosponsors. Renowned backing primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall has also backed the bill. Dr. Goodall recently met with Chairman Waxman on Capitol Hill to express her support for the legislation.
The letter highlights the fact that American taxpayers spend an estimated $25 million each year on chimpanzee maintenance and research, but approximately 90 percent of chimpanzees are not used in active experiments. Instead, they are wasting away in federally funded facilities—some for more than 50 years.
The letter also urges Congress to ensure that precious federal research dollars be invested wisely and used in methods that will more likely lead to effective treatments and cures for human illnesses.
Languishing in Laboratories
The opportunity to provide humane retirement for chimpanzees, coupled with the potential taxpayer savings, justifies the consideration of the Great Ape Protection Act.
"Many of these chimpanzees have been languishing in government facilities since the Eisenhower Administration. It is long past time to let our closest living relatives live out the rest of their lives in sanctuary far away from the barren laboratory cages where they are now stored," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.The use of chimpanzees in lab research has drastically declined in recent years due to past scientific failures, discovery of more practical alternatives, high financial costs, increased public outcry and ethical concerns. Yet, there are still approximately 1,000 chimpanzees currently living in seven laboratories in the United States. The U.S. is the only developed nation in the world that continues to use chimpanzees in harmful, invasive research.