Jane Asks Congressional Leadership to Fix CHIMP Act
October 15, 2013
The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable John Boehner
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Dear Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Pelosi,
As Congress moves to reopen the government after the shutdown so that Americans do not have to suffer while longer-term solutions are put into place, I must share my concern about an issue that was already resolved but will be undone without further action by Congress.
Over the last couple of years, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a host of scientists and organizations, as well as a large number of Americans, all agreed that it is no longer necessary or appropriate to use chimpanzees in invasive medical testing. Whether the reason is because chimpanzees don't provide a good model for scientific research or because this amazing species experiences many of the same emotions as humans – such as, fear, distress and depression --, this paradigm shift had already taken place and the process of moving the majority of federally-owned chimpanzees into the national sanctuary system had already begun when the government shut down.
Presumably, upon the government's re-opening, the transfer process will begin again. But, without a simple and permanent change in the law that only Congress can make, the chimpanzees may face a return to research laboratories. Make no mistake, this would not happen because the paradigm shift somehow unwound. Rather, it would be because the legislation governing the national sanctuary for chimpanzees, which was enacted in 2000, contains a cap – and the cap will be reached sometime between November 15 and November 30 of this year.
Ironically, as with many ramifications of the budget impasse, failing to remove this cap would cost taxpayers more because it is less costly to care for chimpanzees in sanctuary than in labs. NIH does not need more money to retire its chimpanzees. It simply needs authorization to use funds it would already spend to care for the chimpanzees in the labs to retire them instead. In fact, with this change, NIH would actually spend less on research and the retired chimpanzees with each passing year.
We cannot turn back the clock on the many years that chimpanzees have already given in U.S. research labs. I can only hope that Congress will find a way to agree on changing just a few words to save the government some money and enable these chimpanzees to continue relocating to their hard-earned places in sanctuaries.
Jane Goodall, Ph.D., DBE
the Jane Goodall Institute-USA Headquarters