Langevin Applauds NIH Decision to Retire Hundreds of Chimpanzees

Jun 26, 2013 Issues: Animal Welfare

Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) announced today a victory in the fight for animal rights.

Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has agreed to adopt recommendations offered by its Working Group on the use of chimpanzees in NIH-supported research. NIH charged the group with devising concrete proposals based on an Institute of Medicine report that found that use of chimpanzees in research was often unnecessary and rarely conducted in ethologically appropriate environments.

“Chimpanzees are highly intelligent animals, and I believe we have an obligation to do all we can to protect their welfare,” Langevin said. “Biomedical research, unfortunately, has often deprived great apes of the interaction they need to thrive, and I applaud NIH for listening to the concerns of IOM.”

In addition to requiring appropriate environments for research chimps going forward, an independent Chimpanzee Research Use Panel will help guarantee that the benefits of any future experiments will outweigh the burdens placed on chimps. NIH will cease funding for most invasive research at the end of the current grant cycle and will closely review all grants to ensure they comply with the new criteria. NIH will also permanently retire nearly 90 percent of the chimpanzees it owns to sanctuaries, pending a lift on funding restrictions to the federal sanctuary system.

“I look forward to working with NIH to adjust sanctuary funding caps to facilitate the retirement of these chimps,” Langevin continued. “NIH’s approach to the ethical question of chimps in medical research has been exemplary over the past few years. I applaud Dr. Collins for bringing stakeholders from the scientific, animal welfare and bioethics communities together, and I hope it serves as a model decision-making process for future discussion about the effective and humane use of animals in scientific research.”

As a member of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, Congressman Langevin has been a leader in animal welfare in previous Congresses and has led the introduction of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, which would end the use of apes in invasive research. The NIH’s announcement comes just weeks after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing the exemption that kept captive chimpanzees off the endangered species list, a policy Langevin strongly supports.