Chimpanzee testing: the beginning of the end? (video)

For PBS NewsHour, Miles O'Brien reports on whether there are ever instances in which the scientific value of research should offset the moral cost of working with chimpanzees. The US government has moved to limit some of the research it funds with chimps in recent months. Medical experiments on chimps can be invasive: one animal may endure dozens of injections, blood samples and liver biopsies in her lifetime. But some scientists argue that this is the only way to advance medicine. MP3 and transcript here, along with video.

PHOTO: Miles O'Brien. "If they could talk, what would these residents of Chimp Haven tell us?"


  1. The Chinese and whoever else will simply continue testing on apes and monkeys, leaving US medical research in the dust. Hell, they’re probably testing on humans, too. It would not shock me in the least if Big Pharma already has research labs in China and elsewhere with lax moral testing laws.

    1. Yup. It wouldn’t shock me either. And the thing is that later, when we all reap the benefits of such ethical questionableness, we’ll justify it to ourselves by saying that it’s shitty, doing those risky experiments on foreigners, but the work’s already been done so it would be silly not to take advantage of  it. We can’t change the past. We’ve been doing that sort of post rationalisation for centuries now.

      1. The tables used by rescue services to determine the average survival times of people immersed in cold water are derived from Nazi experiments on prisoners at Dachau. The use of these tables saves lives. Do you suggest that we should stop using them?

        1. No.

          I’ll go further. I’m inviting you to tell me what I wrote that could lead you to believe that I’d answer otherwise.

          1. Yeah, no shit man, time heals all perception of ugly, yet necessary must-be-done actions.

            We have so many damaged, messed up orphans here that no one in their right mind would want to take home. They’re just sitting there, useless to society – worthless eaters.

            It would be most beneficial to the long-term health of society if we leveraged the reserve army of the orphans to improve the lives of productive citizens.

            It would also be respectful to these poor, damaged orphans to grant them the opportunity to truly help others live the life they deserve.

            It is our moral obligation as a decent society not to let the lives of these damaged, handicapped orphans fritter away, idle, and otherwise go to waste.Plus, there are a finite and dwindling number of chimpanzees and they are in danger of extinction.

            We cannot kill yet another species, especially when we have a sustainable alternative.

    2.  Well, China is where a few non-human-primate breeding facilities currently are now.

  2. It’s not the only way to advance medicine, but experimenting on live subjects is effective.
    But I question the morality of experimenting on apes. I propose we switch to using corporate CEOs and the like instead. They’re almost human, and few people would actually miss them.
    Might even help us find a cure for the common poverty.

  3. A good, long look into animal testing will show you that virtually none of it involves these ridiculous what if!?!? scenarios.

  4. I think that the guidelines about how to use apes in research have the right idea.  In fact I believe for less stressful research it would be appropriate to use apes in research without it being for lifesaving research (behavioral, or sociological for instance).  Of course any research done upon them should be fully cognizant of their sapience humanity and social intellect and that all reasonable measures should be done to reduce their suffering both physical and mental; during and after research. 
    Scientific research needs to be done and there is a price for that knowledge.  Take
    Alexis St. Martin where after getting shot in the stomach with a musket his doctor used the hole to more closely examine how humans digested food.  To gain this knowledge someone had to be shot in the gut.  Any experiment should be weigh the potential knowledge gain against the suffering caused in seeking it. 
    Hopefully those using apes in research have empathy and compassion for their subjects.  It seemed like there was already a understanding of the importance of providing for the Chimps physical, intellectual, and emotional needs between tests and after research is done.  I’d like to see someone do to research primates what Temple Grandin did for slaughtering cows; passionately investing time and study into how to reduce the stress on the apes during their time in a lab.  The public image of primate research is threatened with mediapathetic images of Chimps screaming as a scientist prepares to shoot them with a dart gun.  Surely there is a better way to sedate them than that. 

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