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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Great Ape Protection & Cost Savings Act

I just concluded a press conference on Capitol Hill with Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., and other animal advocates to announce today’s introduction of the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. The legislation, led by Representatives Bartlett, Steve Israel, D-N.Y., Dave Reichert, R-Wash., Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Ed Towns, D-N.Y., and Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would phase out invasive research on chimpanzees, retire federally-owned chimps to sanctuaries, and save taxpayers about $30 million annually. The House bill already has more than 40 original cosponsors.

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., calls for an end to the use of
chimps in research. photo: Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Bartlett, a physiologist who conducted primate research with NASA and the military, spoke passionately about the need to protect chimps from abuse and phase out research that is fiscally irresponsible and scientifically ineffective. My colleague Kathleen Conlee, senior director of animal research issues for The HSUS, also spoke about her past experience working in primate laboratories and the need to protect these highly intelligent and social creatures.

At a time when our federal government is looking for ways to cut spending and put an end to wasteful programs, here is a perfect opportunity to help animals and the bottom line. Taxpayers are footing the bill for the cost of millions of dollars in invasive research; the breeding of federally-owned chimps (despite a 1995 National Institutes of Health prohibition on producing more infants for labs); and the long-term warehousing of chimps when they are no longer used in active research protocols, including those they don't even own. There are only 1,000 chimps in six U.S. labs, and half of them are owned by the federal government—most are not being used in research but are languishing in isolation in cages. At an estimated cost of $20,000 per chimp per year, and chimps living up to the age of 60, every chimp born into the system represents a hefty $1 million bill for taxpayers.

In 2009, The HSUS released the results of a comprehensive undercover investigation of New Iberia Research Center, part of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and the largest chimp lab in the world with more than 325 chimpanzees. This investigation revealed the psychological and physical suffering that chimps are forced to endure every day in the laboratory—some for more than 50 years.

One elderly chimp, Karen, was captured in the wild in the 1950s and has been languishing in the lab since Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House.

We have since uncovered what appears to be illegal breeding at this very facility—with 123 infants born in violation of NIH policy and likely in violation of federal contracts. We have filed legal petitions with the Attorney General and other agencies to investigate and prosecute possible contract fraud. Most heart-wrenching, however, are the deaths of 14 infants at the facility due to trauma by other chimps—likely the result of overcrowding, negligence, and poor management practices. Chimps are long-lived, expensive, and dangerous, and perhaps that’s why the U.S. is the last developed nation that still uses them in research.

We can do better for these creatures, and we can do better for U.S. taxpayers. Please email your members of Congress today, or call (202) 224-3121, and ask them to take swift action and pass the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act.

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