Posted: 14 April 2007
The USA and Japan are the world’s biggest experimenters on primates, and primate tests are on the rise in the USA. Lab Animal Day will see the launch of a campaign by the ADI USA office in San Francisco to halt the primate torture.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has dramatically increased its funding of primate experiments, and statistics from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show primate experimentation in the US at an all time high – Just under 55,000 primates in 2004, an increase of almost 3,000 in three years. And, whilst most countries have abandoned experiments on Great Apes, the US has an estimated 1,300 chimps in its labs.
Previously, US researchers blindly filled labs with chimps for AIDS research only for the experiments to be an unmitigated failure. Proof that even with the closest species to us, the differences are great enough to undermine the research. Labs closed and had to call in animal protectionists to home the animals. But the lessons appear not to have been learned and, with perhaps only Japan to share data with from their experiments, the US soldiers on in virtual isolation torturing a species that is 98% genetically similar to ourselves, and has intelligence and awareness comparable to a small child.
At the Yerkes National Primate Research Centre nine chimps died during a supposedly, non-lethal series of tests examining gestures in 56 chimps. Depending on the results, the chimps were grouped as either right- or non-right-handed. Magnetic Resonance Imaging was then used to study asymmetries in their brains, to see whether the extent or nature of these asymmetries was related to a particular type of gesturing. Before the MRI took place, however, nine of the chimps were dead, it would seem that they were not killed intentionally but died of – one assumes – natural causes although this seems barely credible. A 16% mortality rate, in a test where all should have survived.
Primatologist Dr. Roger Fouts taught American Sign Language to a chimpanzee called Booee in 1978. In 1995, when Dr. Fouts returned to the laboratory Booee recognised Fouts immediately and became excited, signing to Fouts not only the sign for his own name, but also the sign for Fouts’ name. This was in spite of the fact that the pair had not seen each other at all in the seventeen years which had passed. Fouts was unable to stay long with Booee, and after he left, Booee retreated to a corner of his cage, clearly depressed. At the age of three, Booee had developed his very own personality, much like a human child. Almost thirty years after they first spoke to us from their cages we continue to exploit our primate relatives – what more can they do to convince us to stop?
To take part in the Stop Primate Testing USA campaign, please contact the ADI America office in San Francisco.