Legal Scholars Taking a Look at Chimps’ Personhood

The recent court cases brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) have started to garner attention, not only from animal activists and the research sector, but from the general public as well.  Recently, Matthew Goldberg, a Boston-area writer who has been featured in the Federalist and New Boston Post, wrote a thought-provoking opinion piece on the subject.

In his article, Goldberg discussed the difference between legal rights and duties, which was a major focus  of the court in its most recent decision. The court explained that NhRP’s personhood argument is specious—chimps cannot have the legal right to exist without potential use as research subjects precisely because they also cannot, for example, pay a parking ticket or serve a prison sentence for mauling another chimp (or human for that matter).

Goldberg addressed another argument by NhRP, that primate intelligence warrants legal personhood explaining the potential for the use of that precedent to deny rights to humans with limited intelligence or cognitive impairment.

The article seems to conflate rights—to which animals are entitled, as, for example, undergirds laws against animal cruelty—with full personhood, to which animals are not entitled because they are not capable of fulfilling the attendant legal duties.

Goldberg asked thoughtful questions in this piece, leaving room for more dialogue on the subject and possibly signifying increased public attention to and interest in personhood arguments (as will play out again in NhRP’s appeal).

Spending Bills Approved and Advanced on Capitol Hill

Late last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $20.5 billion agriculture spending bill. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act will fund programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for FY2018. The bill includes a $4.8 billion increase to the amount proposed in President Donald Trump’s budget blueprint, but $7.9 billion less than the previous year’s funding level. Of interest to the animal research community is the allocation of $953.2 million for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the agency that regulates and inspects animal research laboratories. This is $143.2 million above Trump’s budget request for APHIS and $7 million above the funding level for FY2017. The bill was approved by the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee on Tuesday.

Also last week the House Appropriations Committee passed a $156 billion Labor-HHS-Education spending bill for FY 2018. The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Bill contains $21.6 billion more than the amount proposed by Trump and $34.7 billion more than the funding level for FY2018. The spending bill contains $35.2 billion for the NIH ($8.6 billion increase to the Trump’s budget proposal and $1.1 billion increase to FY 2017 allocation) and was approved by the subcommittee on July 13. The bill contains language that directs the NIH to develop a plan to speed up the process of transferring retired research chimpanzees to retirement sanctuaries.

Please stay tuned for more important updates from NABR during the Appropriations process.

Learn How Animal Research is Helping Elephants and Other Endangered Species

By now, we’re all very familiar with how translational research has helped improve the lives of both humans and animals. But did you know similar research is helping to save endangered species from extinction? It is and the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) recently covered the advancements in science that are being put forward to protect endangered animals.

A number of factors are targeting species of wild animals for extinction. Deforestation, pollution, poaching, disease, and urbanization are all taking their toll, so science is using valuable data obtained from animal studies to reverse that course. Assistive reproduction technology like in vitro fertilization and cloning opens the possibility to breeding of these animals in captivity and allowing for their release into the wild. In fact a similar project is currently underway at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. with endangered cats and canids.

Researchers, like those at the Baylor College of Medicine, are studying a deadly strain of the herpes virus called EEHV which can kill young elephants in a matter of days. With the help of mice and rabbits in examining EEHV, those researchers were able to unlock the virus’ genome to help decode a possible vaccine for Asian elephants. Similar vaccine studies have also been conducted to help primates, namely chimpanzees. The deadly Ebola virus is responsible for countless human deaths, but it has also ravaged the wild chimpanzee population. In a 1994 outbreak roughly one quarter of the chimpanzee population died from the disease. Thankfully, University of Cambridge researchers were able to create a vaccine with captive chimpanzees in 2014 that has saved countless chimps from Ebola in the wild.

Animal research has and will undoubtedly continue to play a vital role in the development of lifesaving treatments for both people and animals. Thankfully it is greatly benefiting species that may otherwise disappear due to disease or interference with the delicate balance of the world’s ecosystem. To read FBR's review of these important species preserving studies, please click here.

Researchers Hope Studies with Monkeys Yield Vaccines for HIV, Other Viruses

The mythical opening of Pandora’s box resulted in the release of diseases, many of which science has conquered and found new and innovative treatments to manage them.  Once of great concern, Polio, Measles, Typhoid fever, and Yellow fever, are now no longer worrisome due in part to medical achievements with nonhuman primates (NHP).  But a great deal of work remains and researchers at NABR’s 380 institutional members continue to strive to find a vaccines to eradicate HIV and other infectious diseases.

Highlighting this research was a posting by the Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) explaining the irreplaceable role that monkeys play in scientific discovery.  They alone mirror the biological process of infections in humans because of their similar genetic make-up.  Being 98% genetically similar to humans makes them uniquely suited for these critical studies.  While there is currently no cure for HIV, the virus can be managed by a “drug cocktail” of antiretroviral therapy (ART) medicines.  This is certainly something to be proud of but researchers haven’t quit the hunt for a vaccine to prevent the spread of the HIV virus.  In fact, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) will be taking an exciting HIV vaccine, developed and tested with NHP’s, to clinical trials in humans soon.

Please take a moment to read FBR’s posting and to share your thoughts in the comment section.  Also, please share this report with your friends, family, colleagues, and on social media to help communicate the vital importance that animal models still play in biomedical research and testing.

FBR Statement on End to Chimpanzee Research

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) learned with concern of the recent NIH decision to retire all NIH-owned chimpanzees, ending its support for research on the species. Given the cost and difficulty of moving over 300 chimpanzees, who are currently well-situated in established colonies and receiving the highest quality of care, FBR believes it would make more sense to let the animals remain in place, which will have the additional benefit of maintaining a study model should the need arise. The decision to retire even the reserve colony seems to run contrary to the Institute of Medicine’s report, which stated “chimpanzees may prove uniquely important to unraveling the mystery of diseases that are unknown today”.

To read how chimpanzees have helped medical research, please click here.

USA Today Op-Ed by FBR’s President: “We’re Killing Chimps with Kindness”

The Foundation for Biomedical Research (FBR) continues to receive national attention for its effort to educate the public on the vital importance of animal research for both human and animal benefit.  Moments ago, USA Today featured an opinion piece by Frankie Trull, President FBR, discussing the pitfalls of a recent decision by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) to classify captive chimpanzees as endangered species.

In, "We're Killing Chimps with Kindness," Ms. Trull discusses how the FWS’ recent re-designation of chimpanzees to the “endangered” list is effectively signing the death warrants for countless chimps.  She discusses the promising species-preserving research that will be lost to unnecessary regulation noting, "the move will effectively halt U.S. medical research with chimps — research that is moving ever-closer to yielding a vaccine for Ebola, which has wiped out one of every three great apes over the last two decades."

To read today's coverage of this important issue, please click here.  USA Today is the nation's top newspaper in circulation reaching 4,139,380 people.  Today's coverage is the latest addition to FBR coverage in other significant news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times, and the Tampa Tribune.

If you'd like to help FBR continue spreading the word on the critical importance of humane animal research, please share "We're Killing Chimps with Kindness" with your friends, family, colleagues and on social media.  You can make a difference by donating to FBR by clicking below or by calling (202) 457-0654.

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New York Times Features Guest Column Highlighting Problematic FWS Chimpanzee Rule

As NABR reported on September 21, all chimpanzees are listed as endangered under U.S. law, both wild and captive, as the result of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision earlier this year.  The rule went into effect on September 14.  Just this past weekend, Peter Walsh, a lecturer in primate ecology at Cambridge University penned an opinion piece in the September 26 edition of the New York Times outlining potential problems resulting from the FWS decision.

Protecting Apes Could Backfire” discusses several unintended consequences that could have detrimental effects to health advancements not just for humans but for great apes, as well.  Recently, much has been made about the ancestor of the HIV virus, Ebola, and anthrax in humans but little has been mentioned about infections in great apes like gorillas and chimpanzees.  Researchers are racing against the clock to stop these naturally occurring threats to preserve the species but that may all cease because of the importance of captive animals to research.  Not a single research program has applied for a permit and it is uncertain as to whether any will.  The piece also makes several other interesting points pertaining to the shockwaves that will be sent through research benefitting humans.

Feel free to read “Protecting Apes Could Backfire” by clicking here.

U.S. Captive Chimpanzees Designation as Endangered Species Is Now in Effect

As of September 14, all chimpanzees are listed as endangered under U.S. law, both wild and captive, as the result of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision earlier this year. With the new designation, it is illegal to sell chimpanzees in the interstate pet trade or to engage in commercial transport of the animals across state lines. Permits are now required for anyone wishing to conduct biomedical research involving captive chimpanzees, and will only be issued by FWS if it will benefit the survival of the species.

The effective date of the FWS action was welcomed by Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) CEO Wayne Pacelle in several blog messages (see here and here). It was also celebrated online by other animal activists. “It's so good to hear that unnecessary biomedical research on chimpanzees is coming to an end . . .” Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) said on her Facebook page September 8 along with a picture of chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, there has been broad news coverage about the race to find an Ebola vaccine in order to save wild Great Apes, including chimpanzees, whose numbers are being decimated by the disease in Africa. The testing of vaccines in chimpanzees at the New Iberia Primate Research Center in Louisiana, and the question of whether that work would continue after September 14, was raised in a National Public Television Newshour segment. That question is still unanswered. The Atlantic Magazine raises more questions about how harmful the new restrictions on biomedical research with chimpanzees may be to wild populations in the story “Should Apes Be Saved from Ebola?

Will a Ban on Chimpanzee Research Actually Do More Harm than Good?

Time and time again, animal rights supporters have stated that a ban on animal research is the best solution for the animals.  But is it really?  Debora MacKenzie with New Scientist published an article today that answers that important question with a surprising answer.

In her story, “Ban on chimp testing puts wild ape vaccine for Ebola at risk,” MacKenzie points out the devastating toll of the Ebola virus on both humans and wild chimpanzees in Africa.  After a 17 month outbreak claiming more than 11,000 victims, promising human trials are now underway across West Africa.  But what about the apes?  They too are susceptible to Ebola and according to the University of Cambridge, one third of the world’s gorilla population has been eradicated because of the virus, leaving the western lowland gorilla critically endangered.  Thanks to research at the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana, an edible vaccination is in development to prevent apes from spreading Ebola to each other.

This research may end because of a long campaign by animal rights supporters.  On September 15 a ban by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is set to begin on the use of captive chimpanzees in biomedical research.

To read the article and learn more about this important research and the impact of the ban, please click here.

New York’s Highest Court Deals Serious Blow to Chimpanzee “Personhood” Movement

Earlier today, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, declined to hear appeals brought forward by animal rights lawyer Stephen Wise and the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP).

Previous attempts by Wise and NhRP to seek a writ of habeas corpus for privately-owned chimpanzees had failed in lower courts. Wise argued that chimpanzees were denied their basic legal rights, comparing them to slaves and prisoners.  Previously, three justices in a midlevel court denied legal standing for chimpanzees by saying the animals "cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions."  Most recently, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffee noted in Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) v. Stanley that, "Animals… are accorded no legal rights beyond being guaranteed the right to be free from physical abuse and other mistreatment.”

To read more about today's developments, please see the coverage by U.S. News & World Report and ABC News.

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