Nice to hear that the United States has decided to stopped funding research on Chimpanzees. I’m not feeling the excemptions:
The committee identified two areas where it said the use of chimpanzees could be necessary. One is research on a preventive vaccine for hepatitis C. The committee could not agree on whether this research fit the criteria and so left that decision open.
In the second area, research on immunology involving monoclonal antibodies, the committee concluded that experimenting on chimps was not necessary because of new technology, but because the new technology was not widespread, projects now under way should be allowed to reach completion.
via U.S. Suspends Use of Chimps in New Research – NYTimes.com.
It does seem like a victory for some of the cultural arguments about animal rights. The statement by the director of the National Institute of Health begins with these explanations:
Chimpanzees are our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, providing exceptional insights into human biology and the need for special consideration and respect. While used very selectively and in limited numbers for medical research, chimpanzees have served an important role in advancing human health in the past. However, new methods and technologies developed by the biomedical community have provided alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in several areas of research.
via Statement by NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins on the Institute of Medicine report addressing the scientific need for the use of chimpanzees in research, December 15, 2011 News Release – National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Lets note that the development of scientific alternatives is a key theme that Collins uses to justify his decision. This suggests there are tangible rewards for those activists who focus on the alternatives to animals in scientific research.
Collins’ argument about the closeness of Chimps to humans is a non-starter for me — I sympathize with all beings that can suffer regardless of cuteness or similarity to me. I also think it is a temporary persuader for most people.
But in this case, twenty years of making arguments into the public sphere about primates has saturated the knowledge frame of a few decision-makers.