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Your “NIH advised to retire most research chimps” article (March 15, 2013) gave credence to lab director Christian Abee’s position that chimpanzees are necessary for research. It failed to note labs have a vested interest in the status quo of warehousing chimpanzees, even if not in active research. Nor did it mention that the public should expect AVMA to support retiring all federally owned chimpanzees because there is lack of scientific need for them – as per the Institute of Medicine and NIH’s Council of Councils – and because the veterinary oath requires “protection of animal health and welfare.” It was also not mentioned that a large, growing number of veterinarians support ending this wasteful, ineffective, and inhumane practice.
Veterinarians are employed at chimpanzee sanctuaries throughout the U.S., and there will be expanding need to care for retired chimpanzees. Dr. Abee’s argument that retirement to sanctuary wastes federal dollars echoes a familiar lab agenda: keep dollars in labs by keeping chimpanzees in labs. A just society cannot put the financial interests of laboratories disguised in unsubstantiated rhetoric before the health and humane interests of chimpanzees and superior science.
Chimpanzees have languished in laboratories for decades. Many have few years of life left. All deserve retirement to the comfort only sanctuary can provide. AVMA should, with a strong voice, support recommendations to NIH to retire chimpanzees. AVMA’s legal responsibility for and moral obligation to the well-being of animals can, in this case, only be realized if its position supports the well-being of these chimpanzees.