(ANIMAL RESEARCH) Did you know the U.S. is the only country in the world that currently conducts invasive medical experimentation on great apes? Even though chimpanzees and humans share 98.7 percent of their DNA, supporters of chimpanzee research argue that chimpanzees are not humans and therefore do not deserve the same rights. However, chimpanzees are highly intellectual and emotive creatures, capable of suffering from PTSD and depression. Read on to learn more on why medical research on chimpanzees must be banned and take action: support the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. — Global Animal
Photo credit: New York Times

“Planet of the Apes: Why Medical Research on Chimpanzees Must be Banned,” Caitlin Chase

In the upcoming post-presidential election weeks, Congress will decide whether or not to pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, banning all great-ape research in the United States. Following Gabon’s withdrawal from the practice earlier this year, The United States is currently the only country in the world that continues invasive medical experimentation on our closest relative. We must seriously question if the supposed benefits the United States receives from these invasive experiments is worth the life of torture, confinement, and misery that research chimpanzees live.

Chimpanzee and human DNA are 98.7 percent identical, theoretically making chimps the ideal animal choice for medical research on human diseases. However, the rationale that chimpanzees are bio-medically important to humans because of genetic similarity also provides a compelling ethical argument against their use.

Chimpanzees are intellectual and emotional creatures, capable of feeling love, pain, joy, anger, jealousy, compassion, and have been proven to suffer from PTSD and depression when deprived of adequate living conditions, such as those within a research lab. Primatologist Jane Goodall has observed chimpanzees using tools, toys, and creating games.

Chimpanzees are also known to use certain plants as medicine, plan ahead, communicate with one another, and partake in collective group tasks. Chimpanzees laugh when happy, an emotion that test animals rarely—if ever—experience. Chimpanzees cry when they are scared or sad, an emotion that they are constantly privy too during their lifetime in laboratories. We must ask ourselves, is it ethically justifiable to continue subjecting these intellectual, emotional, laughing creatures to the miserable life as a lab animal?

Supporters of chimpanzee research argue that chimpanzees are not humans and therefore do not deserve the same rights, however, chimpanzees have similar cognitive capabilities as mentally disabled people, and are just as capable of suffering and awareness. Society does not deem it acceptable to run experiments on the mentally disabled and deprive them of their rights, so why is it acceptable to do this to chimpanzees?

History is ripe with examples of supposed “superior” beings running medical experiments on those they deem “lesser.” The Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the German-run experiments during World War II are two infamous examples that spark outrage and disgust from today’s population. What we must come to terms with is that we are using this exact rationale when justifying experimentation on chimpanzees.

Although using chimps as a disease model has proved instrumental in the past in researching cures for hepatitis B and C, studies by the Institute of Medicine argue that for most human diseases, this practice wastes money and time that could better spent on more effective means of testing.

A fundamental flaw underlying the research of human diseases using chimpanzees is that researchers must recreate the disease artificially and infect the test animal, where the course of the disease behaves much differently than its naturally occurring counterpart in humans. The most imperative example that proves the incompetence of chimpanzees as a human disease model is the billions of dollars the United States government spent attempting—and failing—to infect chimps with HIV in order to find a cure. Although chimpanzees are genetically similar to humans, they are not exactly the same; therefore using them as test subjects is a waste of resources and endangers human lives.

Support HR 1326 The Great Ape Protection Act!

The United States is the only country that still allows medical research to be done on chimps. Other countries have enacted laws banning experimentation and others such as Spain and the Balearic Islands have granted all great apes the legal right to life and protection from harm and suffering. We need to follow suit and implement a ban on medical experimentation on chimpanzees by passing the upcoming Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.

Support this act by reaching out to your local congressman and demanding their support. Respecting chimpanzees rights will benefit not only the animals themselves, but will open up millions of dollars in research funds that may go to an effort that is actually beneficial to humanity.

– Caitlin Chase is a sophomore at Duke University studying Public Policy