Chimpanzees in the
The use of chimpanzees in harmful experimentation, and their incarceration
in cages and windowless labs, is the most profound statement of
bigotry being voiced by the United States government today. These
practices are defended vigorously by the biomedical establishment
and are understood to symbolize what they perceive as their God-given
right to dominate and exploit all other species with whom humans
come into contact.
Chimpanzees Are Like Us in All the Ways That Matter
||Philosophers and ethicists once believed that the
gulf between humans andother animals was wide and clearly defined.
Only humans made, modified, and used tools. Only humans possessed
language. Only humans possessed culture. Only humans participated
in systematic warfare. Only humans could exhibit altruistic
behavior. Only humans pondered death and participated in religious
ritual. Monkeys and apes, while they might be something like
us in appearance and biology, were nothing like us inside, in
heart and mind.
Today we know that those philosophers and ethicists were completely
Tool use in primates was first discovered in 1960 by Jane Goodall.
Since that time we have learned that chimpanzees use an assortment
of tools. Examples of meta-tool use, using a tool to modify or improve
another tool, have been documented.
Almost 30 years ago, people began to search for ways to communicate
with apes and monkeys. They wondered whether real language use was
even possible for nonhumans. Today, many chimpanzees have been taught
American Sign Language and have been engaging in dialogue with humans.
From these conversations, it is now clear that their perceptions
of the world are nearly identical to ours. They combine words to
coin new expressions for novel situations and objects, which we
fully understand. An example of this is a chimpanzee signing, fruit
drink when inventing a name for Kool-Aid.
The discovery that chimpanzees use a gestural language in the wild
has contributed to the understanding that culture is passed from
generation to generation. Language and tool use are both used in
unique ways by different chimpanzee groups. The knowledge of how
to use a specific tool and specific gestures is learned and transmitted
It has been known for eons that animals will sometimes fight with
each other, but systematic warfare was considered a uniquely human
trait. It is now known that chimpanzees sometimes engage in long-term
aggression with neighboring groups and will systematically murder
each member of the enemy group. This is accomplished
by a band of mostly males silently searching for isolated members
of the rival community and killing them. Such campaigns can last
months on end with frequently repeated excursions into the rivals
Altruism has long been a bastion of human uniqueness, but the frequency
of adoption of orphaned babies in chimpanzee society is significant.
Chimpanzees are well known for their willingness to put themselves
at risk to aid a friend. People observing chimpanzees in the wild
have been given food by them.
Jane Goodall was the first to observe and record behavior suggestive
of ritual among a group of chimpanzees. During an electrical storm,
after running down a hill screaming and waving a branch, each chimpanzee
would climb back up to repeat the performance. The group continued
this until the electrical storm had passed. Had an anthropologist
observed the same phenomena while studying a tribe of humans, she
would have recognized it as a religious rite.
Today, U.S. policies at work in private and university biomedical
laboratories ignore the evidence gathered during decades of nearly
continual observation of these individuals. Today, chimpanzees are
treated as if the past years of study mean nothing.
The United States government is morally adrift.
More Than 1500 Chimpanzees Are Imprisoned and Tortured in U.S.
Best estimates for the number of chimpanzees held in U.S. laboratories
suggest that the federal government has at least 264 individuals
on hand. 250 of these are owned by the National Institutes
of Health (NIH) and are held at the Alamogordo Primate Facility
at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. Fourteen others are being
used in hepatitis research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
CDC has refused to disclose the location of these animals. The Army
is using an undetermined number for military research.
Coulston Foundation, at its White Sands Research Center, also
in Alamogordo, holds 315 chimpanzees. This makes Alamogordo, New
Mexico, the chimpanzee capital of the world.
The Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research (SWFBR) in San
Antonio, Texas, has about 250 chimpanzees. SWFBR is host to the
Southwest Regional Primate Research Center, part of the federal
governments Regional Primate Research Center (RPRC) System.
Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, also a part of the NIH
RPRC System, holds an estimated 190 chimpanzees. Yerkes is hosted
by Emory University in Atlanta. It could be argued that the individuals
held at these facilities are, essentially, publicly-owned.
The University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, holds 149 chimpanzees
at its facility at Bastrop, Texas.
An estimated 300 chimpanzees are held at the New Iberia Research
Center in New Iberia, Louisiana, a facility owned and operated by
the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This facility is one of
the largest single holdings of primates in the world.
Bioqual, a private contract laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, has
an estimated 63 chimpanzees. This facility is known to be conducting
painful respiratory experiments on infant chimpanzees.
The Primate Foundation of Arizona, wholly funded by tax dollars,
has 76 chimpanzees, but claims that they would never harm them nor
allow harmful experiments to be performed on them. Still, the NIH
supports these individuals and only time will tell whether the government
will demand a reckoning.
The Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical Research Must Stop Now
If the U.S. policy makers and U.S. citizens are willing to allow
this situation to continue, it can hardly be argued that we are
an enlightened nation or people. Throughout much of the rest of
the Western world, countries are passing laws to correct the errors
of past ignorance-based policies. The United Kingdom has banned
all experiments on great apes (chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, and
orangutans), and the European Union appears poised to do the same.
New Zealand has passed laws that extend the most basic constitutional
protections to these nonhuman animals.
Based on their affinity with us, and the logical conclusions that
must be drawn from any rational explanation of why human deserve
basic rights, there is no argument for continuing to allow chimpanzees
to be tortured and imprisoned in American laboratories - other than
For additional information on the plight of chimpanzees in research
and efforts to win their personhood please visit:
Stop Experimentation on and Exploitation
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