TED Conversations

Matthew Kinsella


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Given that chimpanzees are endangered, is it ethical to use them in biomedical research?

Chimpanzees are distributed throughout Equatorial Africa, occurring from southern Senegal across the forested belt north of the Congo River to western Uganda and western Tanzania. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, current estimates for the wild population range from 150,000 to 250,000 individuals. The largest populations of chimpanzees occur in central Africa, mainly Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cameroon. Sadly the populations that once habituated Gambia, Burkina Faso, Benin, or Togo are no longer found.

One of the greatest threats to the long-term survival of chimpanzees and other great apes is habitat loss. Between 2000 and 2010 Africa lost over 3 million hectares of its forests. Much of this loss occurred within the chimpanzee range, including the equatorial forest belt. In 2007, the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s classification of chimpanzees satisfied the criteria for ranking as Endangered based on a projected future rate of decline of 50% in three generations (from 1970-2030).

On top of facing habitat loss by logging operations, illegal hunting, and disease, chimpanzees have to worry about being captured for use in biomedical research. Luckily the demand for chimpanzees has been diminishing because many scientists agree that they are no longer necessary for understanding most diseases today. Either they simply don’t prove useful or better alternatives exist. However one exception remains, Hepatitis C (spread by blood-to-blood contact). Today, an estimated 4 million people are infected by Hepatitis C in the United States, and at least 130 million worldwide. Around 350,000 people around the world die from Hepatitis C-induced liver failure each year. There is still no vaccine, and chimpanzees are the only known non-human animals capable of being infected by the virus. No other animal models exist.

  • May 15 2012: Many people are vegetarians for this reason. Others are conscientious about where their animal-based food comes from. The reality is that all suffering cannot be stopped (though some Buddhists might disagree), but almost all suffering can be lessened, and a lot of it can be avoided.

    In the case of medical trials: if this research is so vital to saving lives, then people should be willing to volunteer to test it. The doctors themselves, for example. The Nobel prize has gone to several scientists who tested themselves to prove their points. They accepted the risks of suffering and/or death. Animals (especially ones who we do not bother asking, even when we have the ability to communicate with them (yes, we can ask chimps if they do or do not want to do something and understand their answers)) are not given the choice to sacrifice their health and well being for others. Perhaps they would agree if we explained it to them.

    I like to think that if we were ever able to communicate how important live trials are to saving lives to other animals, that they would be willing to participate. However, I think we should prepared to answer the question back from them: why us and not you?

    Note: I do not say this to discredit scientists or the work that they do. Nor is this a judgement of whether or not what they do is "worth it in the end." I am merely stating that it is hard to agree that such trials are ethical.

    We live in an imperfect world and things do not always fall easily into black or white.

    But we should know the difference between the two.
  • May 15 2012: As has been indicated, there are at least two separate ethical issues here. The first being: is it ethical to contribute toward the extinction of a species. The second being: is it ethical to endanger or force an animal to do something against its will for the benefit of another. Both of these require us to determine what beings we have a moral obligation to.

    For the first issue, we do not need to address whether or not we have an ethical responsibility toward other creatures. We can recognize that decreased biodiversity is harmful to humans. If we can agree that intentionally acting in such a way that we know we will do harm to humans is unethical, that researching on chimps is damaging the contribution chimps make toward biodiversity, and that decreasing biodiversity is harmful, then it follows that such research is unethical.

    The second issue requires us to determine whether or not humans have a moral responsibility toward non-human beings. As there is considerable debate as to whether or not humans have moral responsibility toward one another, let us not belabor the point here. The differences between humans and other animals are far outweighed by the similarities. The one notable difference we have determined is intelligence, however we generally agree that stupid people deserve to be treated ethically as much as intelligent people do (both can be equally loving and equally annoying), so let us reject that as well. For the sake of this discussion let us say that we have an ethical obligation toward all beings who can suffer (I credit Peter Singer for that).

    Let's assume a being with freedom of movement suffers when that movement is denied. Locking an animal into a space or position against its will is thus unethical. Further manipulation (touched, poked, fed, against its will) will cause further suffering-and is thus also unethical.

    Utilitarian arguments in the case of research due to their speculative nature (one can't know if the research will pay out).
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      May 15 2012: If i follow this logic a may well starve to death!
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    May 11 2012: The Scientific American article below talks about how chimps are split into two categories in their classification in the US, based on whether or not they were bred in captivity. The captive-bred chimps are listed as threatened while the wild chimps are listed as endangered. There's a debate about whether it is time to eliminate this distinction. I don't necessarily think the distinction is wrong, however. I think the question should always be "can the captive-bred individual survive in the wild and reproduce successfully in order to increase the overall population?" If the answer is yes, and these captive-bred chimps CAN be returned to the wild, then they should be protected. If they're too domesticated to ever live in the wild again then I think using them in biomedical research isn't as huge an issue. This distinction should probably be in place for all species, and the line should always be drawn only in regards to health and suitability for rehabilitation. Under no circumstances should a wild chimpanzee be captured for biomedical research.

    Of course that research should be done as ethically as possible and should minimize the suffering of the animal. Whether that animal is a guinea pig or a fish or a chimp, they shouldn't have to suffer if there's a way to avoid it.
    For a really good example of why animal testing is the lesser of two evils, "The American Plague" by Molly Caldwell Crosby does a wonderful job explaining what people did to try and stop yellow fever. Intentionally infecting volunteers with a disease isn't exactly common practice anymore for good reason.

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      May 12 2012: Thank you for the link! I'm very glad you brought this to my attention.
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    May 15 2012: I believe once an animal has gone on the endangered species list, it should be illegal to continue using them for legal organized testing of any kind. There should be a pause on the testing until the population of the species being tested rises to average numbers before continuing.

    Sometimes we forget to let life flourish and thrive before we put our greedy minds into play of its future.
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    May 15 2012: When considering their endangered status, the use of Chimpanzees in biomedical research is most unethical if the animals are being removed from their natural habitat for testing, as this stresses and further decreases already small populations. When individuals are born in a facility, their use in biomedical research is not negatively impacting native populations or affecting their potential for extinction.
    However, I do not think that any use chimpanzees in medical research is ethical. There is no guarantee for the health and survival of these animals, and even if regulated standards of care are enforced the animal still has a dramatically reduced quality of life. The lack of care for these animals is especially troubling considering their higher levels of intelligence. In general, it seems more ethical to restrict biomedical research to organisms like Drosophila or zebrafish which may be less aware of their surroundings are are more easily housed in small spaces.
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    May 15 2012: My name is Juno & in July of 2010 I was rescued from a testing laboratory in New Jersey. Since my rescued (with 119 other beagles & 55 primates) I have been adopted into a wonderful home I have become an ambassador for laboratory animals everywhere. Sadly many people believe that animals have allowed scientists to make beneficial progress in the medical sciences but that is far from the truth. Dogs & cats can eat arsenic without any side effects, humans will die. If dogs or cats eat grapes, chocolate & avocado in large quantities they could develop renal failure & die. Our biology is radically different than a humans negating results. But you should know that all of this testing can be avoided using a process called in vitro (in a test tube) testing with human (non-embryonic) stem cells. These tests are not only more humane but are less expensive to perform & yield much more positive results as these cell react exactly as a humans cells would. So why is it not more utilized? Because this technology is relatively new & scientists who have been trained in vivisection are not likely to give up their day jobs or their funding because that would mean they would have to be retrained. In the medical world greater than 95% of all animal testing is rendered inconclusive. Why? Because we are animals not humans. People donate millions of dollars annually to charities that directly fund animal experimentation to cure diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's etc. Did you know mice were cured of cancer 10 years ago? It just doesn't translate to humans yet people continue to throw their money at these charities in the false hope that these diseases will be cured. In vitro testing has shown much greater promise than any animal testing ever did. The day that animal testing ends is coming just as soon as people & governments stop funding useless experimentation & demand that scientists stop killing the over 25 million animals each year in the US alone.
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      May 15 2012: In vitro testing is not more widely used as it has been shown to be unreliable as in vitro testing only exposes one tissue type to the pharmaceutical being tested. Within a real person this is impossible. This sort of hyperbolic claptrap doesn't help the discussion. I assume your 25million animals includes fruit flies otherwise there must be some huge facilities. I can't imagine how big a building needs to be to house 1 million test animals. Unless they are very small. FYI in vitro actually means in glass. Generally a petri dish. Cancer hasn't been cured in mice there are over 200 identified types of cancer each with its own cause and potential cures. There is no "CURE". No I don't work for a pharmaceutical company, I am a highschool science teacher and feel a very high responsibility to present accurate information to my students.
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        May 15 2012: Your response implies your ignorance much like most of the general population. I urge you to become familiar with the Physicians Committee for Reponsible Medicine before making incorrect statements. I Both PCRM and the New England Anti Vivisection Society offer a wealth of information on alternative methods. Both of whom employ doctors who unlike yourself I assume since you claim to be a science teacher and not a doctor have done their investigating into this subject and are more informed to make intelligent determinations in regards to animal testing. As for the 25 million animals sir your misinterpretation made me laugh or howl if you will. The 25 million represents all animals from the lowly mouse to the mighty horse who give their lives to bring products such as premarin to market. They are housed in research laboratories and universities all over the US.
        I fully realize that some people will never be persuaded to believe that animal testing is cruel and barbaric. When you meet your maker I'm quite certain they will echo that sentiment.
    • May 15 2012: As a research scientist I can tell you that there is no way I could possibly study what I do using in vitro cells. For you to make generalizations and say that all animal research subjects could be replaced with in vitro studies shows your lack of scientific knowledge.
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        May 15 2012: See my comment above. The very fact that you refuse to embrace the possibility of alternative methods reinforces my belief that vivisectionists are only trying to protect their jobs. Shame on you for inflicting pain and misery on innocent and unconsenting animals. And all for a less than 5% results. Junk science is what you practice.
        Again Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the New England Anti Vivisection Society for more correct information.
        • May 15 2012: Your belief sounds like a conspiracy. What do you mean by 5% of results? You have no idea what type of science I perform. In general, scientists want to understand the world around them. That can only be done if things are studied in their natural setting, i.e. cells in their natural setting not cell in a dish. This in vitro science you speak up would be junk science.

          Also, your getting your information from physicians it appears. These people may know a lot about science but they don't know anything about scientific research.
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    May 14 2012: First of all, I believe that most chimps used for research (just as any other model organisms) are bred for the sole purpose of research, so I do not think that wild chimps need to fear capture from biomedical firms. Secondly, if chimps really are the only organism available for certain types of research, I believe it is justifiable to use them, as long as they are treated as humanely as possible and they are used as sparingly as possible. Then, finally, above you mention that habitat loss is actually the greatest threat to the long term well-being of chimpanzees, so I think it would be much better to address that before worrying about animals being bred for research (research that helps countless humans).
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      May 14 2012: I completely agree with Lisa, now if each Chimp had been trapped from the wild, this would be a totally different story though I'm sure they do introduce wild Chimps into the mix to add genetic diversity and because Chimps take longer to reproduce than other test subjects such as mice or zebra fish. As humans we think our species is more important than any other so our health is a priority over the Chimps. Since it is unethical to experiment on humans or fetuses, and because Chimps share the most genetic material with us, it would be more beneficial to humans to do research with Chimps than any other species.
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    May 14 2012: As is common in small blogs like this one, it is impossible to make a solid judgement based on the limited knowledge I have of this subject matter. In this context, it appears that the Chimpanzee is not necessary for biomedical research but this post is extremely one sided. What did they used to be used for? How successful were the tests run on chimpanzees in the first place? What type of captive breeding program could be set up to eliminate their removal from the wild? How many chimpanzees are removed through research versus from habitat loss, etc? What I'm getting at here is that you are asking for an answer based almost solely on our own opinions without giving us much to go off of.
    In my opinion, it seems like Chimpanzees could and should be used in research just as our zebrafish are used. Is this ethica?l To me it seems perfectly valid if a sustainable method is used. To others, probably not at all since they are very similar to humans genetically. The bigger issue here is protecting their habitat and stopping poachers since these are undoubtedly the two largest areas where these Chimpanzees are killed. Humans could both seek to solve their own problems while also aiding chimpanzees by providing more protections and funding to both research and a development of a healthy population in the wild.
  • May 16 2012: Like many people participating in this conversation, I definitely see very unethical aspects within the field of biomedical research. However, I also feel the need to offer a different perspective. My older sister was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 7 years old. If it were not for extensive research done on animals, it is very likely that my sister would not be alive today. While it may be easy for some people to say that killing animals is too high of a price for saving human life, it is extremely difficult to stay true to this opinion when the situation becomes innately personal. To me, my sister's life is worth the price. Perhaps this is a selfish view, but it is also true. Biomedical research saves lives. This being said, moving away from using animals as test subjects wherever possible would be ideal, and hopefully there will be a point in the future when it is no longer necessary. Until that point, I would simply urge everyone to examine this issue on a variety of levels and from a multitude of perspectives. I encourage those who blatantly oppose any animal testing of any sort for any reason to think about the people in their lives that would not be present if it were not for biomedical research.
  • May 16 2012: Wait a second! If you were dying of Hep C wouldn't you volunteer for experiments? The question suggests there are millions of potential candidates. Is it just pharma-tradition that defaults to animals for medical experimentation? Could it be the leftovers of a religious ethos that believes the beasts of the earth were put here for us to exploit as we choose? I can't imagine we would like it if it were happening to us. I think in using chimpanzees for biomedical research we are witnessing a pretty sad example of human creativity, when we consider the possible approaches to combatting disease. Asking the patient to be part of the cure seems logical and compassionate to me.
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    May 16 2012: A follow-up question. Is it EVER ethical to use ANY animals for medical research? Why should animals be subjected to pain, stress, humiliation and death to solve the problems of humans? All in the advancement of knowledge but at what price?
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    May 16 2012: Since there is a huge threat to the habitat of chimps adding to the loss in wild populations. Are there no chimps that are bred in captivity? It seems that there would still be some amount of breeding going on in the lab to ease the pressure of taking a threatened species from a degraded area. There would have to be some legal red tape with the countries and regions and removing chimps from their environment. While animal testing is very controversial and unpopular, the testing done on chimps does lead to further advances in finding a cure to Hep C. I still find it hard to get completely behind despite the positive side. I always envision the testing conditions and how the chimps probably don't understand what is being done to them or why. It seems that humans are playing god with other animals lives under the guise of helping humanity? But how much help is actually being found? Are there ways to cut down on the number of chimps that are infected and then tested? I would challenge the medical field to find better ways of testing the chimps while still looking for a vaccine.
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    May 16 2012: While a somewhat egocentrical view (yet speaking for all humans) and undoubtingly sad, I feel it would be unethical not to conduct biomedical research on animals particularly chimpanzees in hopes to treat the possible life threatening disease hepatitis C. Advances in medicine save millions of lives yearly, and many from new drug developments or treatments that could not have come about without biomedical testing. I believe anyone staunchly against this practice would change their opinion rather quickly if they themselves developed or contracted a disease that required biomedical testing- even if the species were in danger of extinction.

    Yet to play devil's advocate I believe we should also consider this dilemma from the view as soon to be scientists, or even from the view of the chimpanzee! With the chimpanzee species population nearing extinction I feel a fair compromise to please both sides of the argument can be met. While we invest money into curing Hepatitis C, potentially bettering the health of a humans and our society, we should allocate funds and energy to invest in the restoration of theirs. This could include protecting and restoring many of their natural habitats to pre-human interventions while safeguarding the threatened species through controlled propagation in the protected habitats, zoos, and of course in the wild.
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    May 16 2012: I agree with your opening statement that the greatest threat to chimpanzees is habitat loss and believe that the amount of chimpanzees being used as model organisms for Hep. C is negligible with respects to the amount of Chimpanzees dieing because of habitat loss. I would like to think that as the animals are being studied, scientists are gaining valuable information about the chimpanzees that may help reduce the effects of habitat loss.

    With their threat to habitat loss so great I would like to ask, is it ethical to support (via american consumerism) processes that contribute to habitat destruction.
  • May 16 2012: Yes but, if a chimp has the cognitive and emotional development of a 3 year old child can you personally justify his or her suffering or death, at the very least loss of liberty, for a human ailment? Or put another way, if an alien species decided that me or you or Heath would be a suitable experimental subject would you accept this decision as justifiable, regardless of any suffering you or I may feel? The aliens have justified it and we certainly aren't endangered... well that is another subject!

    While it is reasonable to insist that humans and chimps have different cognitive abilities, there is no evidence to suggest chimpanzees have any less depth of emotion or "feelings". I'm not sure where we draw the line in the animal kingdom but I "feel" pretty sure that apes, cetaceans and elephants should be respected as co-sentient riders on this planet. Just because we haven't learned to communicate with any level of mutual respect and sophistication to them is no fault of theirs.
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    May 15 2012: well, you said it:
    the very first threat is habitat loss
    the second point is "is it ehtical to use chimps for medical research?" Meaning these animals will be killed, and the best case scenario to justify this is that it will (perhaps!) contribute to saving human lives.

    so the debate IMHO is tweaked. Save the natural habiat of chimps and this question will be less "politically correct".

    It's an environmental debate. AND political, meaning: are "rich" countries willing to dig in their pockets to save forests located in countries they never heard before....? With no sacro-saint ROI?
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    May 15 2012: I think when looking at this question you must also look at question corresponding to it. Like are advances being made towards finding a cure for Hepatitis-C by doing biomedical research on chimpanzees? If not and the taking of chimpanzees for this research is in fact threatening their population numbers then I would say this practice of using chimpanzees in biomedical research is not the most just way of finding a cure for this disease. In the case of Hepatitis-C, I think that human trials is something of a possibility since this disease does have the potential to kill the person who has it.

    I also feel like the word "ethical" is somewhat weighted and makes this question difficult to answer in one way or another. The term holds different meanings to different people and what is ethical to one person may not be to the next.
  • May 15 2012: I do not think we are better than Chimps, Man has the a ability to thin beyond the capacity of the chimp or that is what is assumed. Dolphins are a treaty example they possess abilities beyond human capabilities. Their natal ability to use sonar other animals able to use in farad . I think it is a moral question.. Do we have the right to decide if a child dies, or is experimented on? A Chimp a capacity of learning is not beyond say 7. but their ability to communicate through sign language, I truly feel we have no right to harm another species. We may have power over them but that does not make us superior to them. A man can build a factory,but we d=really do not understand other species and their unique contribution on this planet. Each with their own way . We Humans are destroying the environment and encroaching on the animals domain. But we are classified as animals and told throughout various lectures that humans taste like chic hen. But I believe we Humans have a special role on this planet, to learn but preserve as much as possible. if we can learn to live amongst the different species than our future in space and the Human race is more certain if anything can be certain these days. We live in a world of constant change through technology and medical advances that I pray that we do not use animals as research or as little as possible. When it involves a species near extinction it should not be used for research. I truly believe Animas especially Humans should not be used unless those involved in the study understand the risk involved.
  • May 15 2012: Hi Mr. Moore,
    You are not pessimistic! You have the right idea! Sad but the right idea. There is no leader, in this country or any other country. THE only leader is power and money and greed and more power and stupid as--- religion.
    With that being said, I really do believe in your, glass half full!
    Fight for it!! ( with respect to you! ) :)
  • May 15 2012: I have a new proposal: testing on humans in prison with life sentence.
    After all, the scientific testing is for humans, not for chimps.

    Testing on animals, whether they are endangered or not, is cruelty against innocent creatures.
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    May 15 2012: Animal testing has become a touchy subject in the 21st century. I have never has overly strong options about it except that excessive harm should be avoided. Science would not be where it is today without the help of model organisms. Luckily there are places such as Chimps Inc in Bend where I am from that give homes to animals that have been involved in this business as well as other industries such as zoos. The fact that there are still diseases that we need chimps help to cure is very sad, but hopefully alternatives can be developed as the scope of scientific development expands. You can learn more about Chimps Inc on their website here http://www.chimps-inc.org/index.php
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    May 14 2012: I'm certain it has been said before, but I don't have a problem with using Chimps in biomedical research (as long as they are being treated humanely, of course). I do believe, though, that chimps should not be taken from the wild for use in research for precisely the reason the original post outlined. We shouldn't contribute to endangerment of this species, especially one so useful to us. Instead, only chimps bred in captivity or that would otherwise not survive in the wild should be used in research in these fields.
  • May 14 2012: I don't know a lot on the subject of animal testing, it's just not really in the scope of my activism. But I think the question has to be posed as "is the harm we are doing to these chimps (be they captive or wild, be it psychological or physical) less than the good it will do for others?" Because it's the difference between two species I think it's much more difficult to argue one way or the other without being emotional about it. From an objective stand point I want to say that it's unethical to test for human curers on chimps. But then I've watched my friends and family be eaten alive by cancer, and become hollow from Alzheimer's, and if someone told me in that moment that testing on chimps could have saved them all this pain then I wouldn't hesitate to say that the testing should have been conducted. I guess that's why it's a good thing that relatives of the dying and hostages don't make decisions.
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    May 14 2012: As pretty much everyone has already said, Chimps used for testing are bred in captivity, or at least that's what the legitimate labs do. As for those who illegally capture chimps for study, I don't really see the point of discussing the ethics of people who clearly intend to ignore ethics altogether. It's like asking if illegal hunting is wrong; of course it’s wrong, the only problem is it's difficult to enforce.

    One thing I don't see emphasized enough is the fact that chimps aren't mostly used for biomedical study; they're usually used for psychological study. While it's true that most biomedical research can now be done without involving chimps, they are still invaluable for psychological research. So I don't think the "need" for lab chimps will die out anytime soon.
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    May 14 2012: I think that chimpanzees should be used for limited animal testing, but they should not be taken from the wild for testing. Why not breed chimpanzees in captivity and use those for testing? While it is often not easy to breed animals in captivity, given the research importance of chimps in certain diseases, such as Hep C, then it makes sense to apply special efforts to breed chimps. This solution seems to solve the problem of research, and of course other, more abundant animals should be used for testing whenever possible. As to the problem of habitat loss, that issue does not seem directly related to animal testing, but rather the unprotected nature of many forests worldwide. While deforestation is common and it threatens many species, chimpanzee included, there do not seem to be a connection between animal testing and deforestation. Forest restoration and preservation should be undertaken in these areas, but they often have political instability and social problems stemming from long term issues related to colonial periods of history. Deforestation will not be addressed until stable governments are in place that can effectively protect the forest, but preservation must also be a priority for the citizens of these nations.
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      May 14 2012: To go along with your first question I agree Why are we not breeding chimpanzees in captivity for animal testing, rather than taking them from the wild? Chimpanzees may be good for animal testing for humans, but I don't think they should be taken from the wild for this purpose and even with this I think there are some ethical issues that arise that may not be addressed. If you know something is going to kill the Chimp then why do it? They should be treated humanely. I don't think we should perform things on chimps we are not willing to perform on humans.
      Habitat loss is a whole other issue and i think is a much bigger issue, because this is not only effecting Chimps but many other species that the Chimps may rely on or rely on the chimps. Even just preserving some areas would most likely increase chimp numbers as long as they are not hunted or taken for biomedical testing. More needs to be done to protect these species and their homes.
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        May 15 2012: The question you raise about killing chimps in the name of research is a good one, but this question could be asked for all laboratory animals. Is it ethical to kill animals for testing at all since it serves only human interests and is very much against the interests of the test subject? While the argument could be made that zebra fish and mice are relatively abundant and therefore more expendable, where is that line drawn? How do we determine which test subjects are expendable? Which species? Food for thought.
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      May 15 2012: Please also see my comment above.

  • May 14 2012: In my opinion, to establish a wild life reserve or other measures to improve their habitats is the principal thing .If their quantity can be guaranteed,medical research on chimpanzees will involve fewer ethical problems.Futher more,canceling medical researchs can't solve the problem essentially.
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    May 14 2012: As long as strict ethical standards are held, I believe using chimps in biomedical research is ethical. The fact is that we simply can't do the same type of experiments on humans as we can with animals. I'm not entirely familiar as to how researchers obtain chimps, but as long as they are bred and housed within a humane environment, it is fine with me if these endangered animals are used in studies. Stopping medical research on chimps due to their endangered status doesn't really address the real problem here. The fact is that massive habitat loss has led to their decline and in order to improve their conservation status, there needs to be an active effort to conserve their habitat.
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      May 15 2012: Heath, you share the same thoughts on this subject as I do. I believe that if the chimpanzees are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of medical research, then this isn't a true threat to their original population. The wild chimpanzee's are what needs to be monitored and protected. To me, it seems as if these are two separate issues regarding the same species.
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    May 14 2012: I think it is also important to look at the type of research. Chimpanzees and other primates are use often for behavioral study, not just biomedical. Here you can reward the chimpanzees with small food rewards with little negative impact and see how they react to different situations. Understanding computers, microbes and other model organisms (such as mice and zebrafish) are also helping in diminishing the need for the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research.
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    May 14 2012: Is it ethical to use them full stop - regardless of the threat of extinction?
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      May 14 2012: That is the real question. Is it different using an organism to test a medical procedure to using an organism for food. Testing a procedure on 20 chimpanzees might save 10000 human lives. Slaughtering 20 sheep for food won't save anywhere near that many. It would be nice to live without having a negative impact on any other lives but I don't see how that's possible. Maybe the best we can do is minimise our impact in both cases.
      • May 14 2012: You guys do realize approved experiments greatly value the ethical values of animals; it is not like scientists are sending animals in slaughter houses.
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          May 14 2012: Yes totally. You can't do valid experiments if the test subjects aren't well treated. It would just introduce a whole bunch of uncontrolled variables into the experiment and corrupt your data.