I am amazed, when I take inventory, at how many years have passed, how much has been accomplished, enjoyed, learned, lost, and gained. As our 2009 Annual Report thresholds a new decade, I would like to do a brief review of the last decade of work to end the use of animals in laboratories and science education. Seeing how far we have come gives us renewed energy, optimism, and spirit because no matter how demanding the journey, we are getting where we need to go.
Since 2000, there have been four World Congresses on Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences. Thousands of scientists have met in major world cities to present the latest research on alternatives and discuss progress to refine, reduce, and replace the use of animals in research and testing.
Over the last decade, we have arrived at a full 96% of medical schools no longer using live animals in their training, while 50% of veterinary schools no longer require terminal labs. Animal-friendly science education, for which willingness to hurt or kill animals is no longer a requirement, promises future scientists, physicians, and veterinarians of compassion.
Our review reminds us that in 2000 the precedent- setting Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection (CHIMP) Act was passed, fueling current legislative efforts to finish the job it began (see Great Ape Protection Act, pg. 4). It elevated a species other than Homo sapiens to moral and legal consideration by providing for the retirement and lifetime care of chimpanzees no longer “needed” in research and by prohibiting their euthanasia for a lab’s convenience.
Over the last decade, the National Center for Research Resources ended funding for breeding chimpanzees for research, making the voluntary breeding moratorium of 1995 permanent. Later, the “Chimp Haven is Home Act” amendment prohibited “retired” chimpanzees in federal sanctuary from ever being returned to research, bringing the CHIMP Act full circle.
As the decade was coming to a close, a “dream team” of bipartisan legislators introduced the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R.1326)—the first legislation of its kind, which would extend to a non-human species the right to be protected from science by ending invasive research and testing on chimpanzees and retiring them to permanent sanctuary. By the end of 2009, the bill boasted 140+ cosponsors and the support of millions of voting, taxpaying Americans, including physicians, scientists and others taking a stand against cruel, status quo science.
These accomplishments add to our continuum of progress as we slide down that “slippery slope” of compassion that our opponents worry about when even the smallest advance is made to protect animals. They need be warned that animal protection organizations, U.S. citizens, and legislators are showing the world that compassion will prevail.
My list of the decade’s accomplishments could include many more examples, but what I have included will hopefully serve you to feel proud to be a part of this good work! I have been with NEAVS since that fateful day in elementary school when I was first introduced to the plight of animals in labs via a NEAVS magazine. I have been proud to serve NEAVS as its president since 1998. During this time, I have prayed for the continued wisdom and energy to do the task at hand. I have sighed in joy and relief after each of the many accomplishments NEAVS has made or been a critical part of. I look back with gratitude for being a part of this great work, this amazing organization, and for knowing some of the most precious people on the planet—you, our supporters, our Board, staff, and friends. And, I have been blessed with knowing hundreds of animals who have benefited from our collective compassion and who have been our teachers.
So to all of you, thank you for a wonderful and successful 2009, and for being there with us as we move into 2010 and our next decade of progress begins!
Theodora Capaldo, EdD