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>
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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.
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    May 14 2012: I think that there must be some way that chimpanzees can be conserved while also being used for research to potentially save millions of lives. How many chimpanzees are really needed for research? Surely if only a select few were used that wouldn't damage or endanger the overall population of chimps. I agree with others in that there are larger contributing factors in the endangering of the species, and that biomedical research is only a small portion of it. Therefore, I believe that the sacrifice of a small number of chimpanzees to save millions of lives is worth it if the right conservation technique are applied to the rest of the population.
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    May 13 2012: I think there are a lot of factors that are decreasing chimpanzee populations, and a lot of problems that the species faces, but I don't think that in terms of population loss, biomedical research is a main contributing factor. Wild populations are very different than captive populations used for research. When you think about the Zebra fish facility on our campus, and how much is put into making sure that the animals are healthy and have no genetic abnormalities it becomes apparent that you can't just take any organism and use it for testing. So the populations they use are better regulated than wild populations. Even if it comes to if chimpanzees should be used in biomedical research, I think the answer is probably yes. Our genomes are so similar so they are ideal candidates when it comes to testing medicines for humans. There are strong scientific reasons to use chimpanzees in research and in the category of reasons not to are perhaps ethics, but not a question of biodiversity within the species.
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      May 13 2012: I was thinking about the Zebrafish facility as well trying to answer this question. I also think biomedical research has a very minimal effect on the entire endangered population of chimps as wild populations have very little similarities to captive populations. And for something that is so detrimental to the human population, it seems logical for them to continue research on chimps as they are the only model organism for this viral infection. However, this doesn't mean decreasing chimp populations are not a problem. I think a few ways to where we could save their populations is to enforce hunting laws, reintroduction projects, etc.
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        May 14 2012: Perhaps biomedical research even limits the threat of chimp extinction. I agree with everyone who says that most reputable labs breed their own populations. While these populations are far from wild, it seems like if anything like total chimp extinction were to happen in nature captive population could begin being breed for reestablishment. This would raise further questions about captive population health and genetic diversity, but it seems like there are enough captive chimps to re-populate if needed. Overall, I have to agree with Tina's point that biomedical research has very little effect on wild/endangered populations.
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      May 14 2012: Although the Zebrafish facility works hard to maintain the integrity of the fish populations they have, I have to question whether these standards can be applied to every research lab that uses zebrafish. It was mentioned that some research labs will integrate pet store zebrafish into their populations, whose origins are questionable and therefore have a tendency to contaminate and kill the populations of the labs.

      The same thing could apply to research on chimpanzees, even more so since chimps are very large mammals and would be difficult (but not impossible) to maintain a captive population of, especially when considering the length of time required for a youth to reach sexual maturity and how many offspring each chimp can provide. This could lead to the use of wild chimps in biomedical research, despite the inherent risk of disease propagation as introduced by the wild chimps.

      If the demand for chimps in biomedical research is significant enough to contribute to extinction of the wild population I would hope that either a new organism could be found to research on, or steps made to lessen the impact of the biomedical research.
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    May 13 2012: If chimps are, in fact, being captured in the wild and used in biomedical research, there is no doubt in my mind that this is detrimental to their already threatened populations. However, as many have have previously stated, the majority of chimpanzees used in research are captive bread and therefore have no effect on wild populations. Chimpanzees share 99% of their genome with humans. This unique link may allow us to increases our understanding of human diseases, and I feel this merits them a worthy research subject (under ethical standards of course). Along with Hep-C, chimps are also being used to study HIV/AIDS. Their closely related virus is very similar to human HIV/AIDS, except for one very important distinction: chimps never experience full blown AIDS. They are merely carriers of the HIV virus and can live out their entire lives without the infection causing detrimental or fatal results. Biomedical research on chimpanzees may lead to a better understanding of the human form of the virus, and hopefully someday a cure. What baffles me is that so many endangered species are legally being kept in captivity by private parties, and a much larger amount of these individuals ARE being taken from the wild. Yes, there are private breeders also, but smuggling exotics for the pet trade is a huge problem that is rarely addressed (until a chimp happens to rip someone's face off and make national television) and can have a much greater effect on wild populations.
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      May 13 2012: I also agree that there is a distinction between captive bred and wild populations. Of course those captive bred populations were once wild, but we must consider balancing the effects on biodiversity with the impacts on medical research. Continuing to use captive populations will not have the same effect on biodiversity as would hunting or capturing more chimpanzees in the wild. That being said, it is critical for there to be strict regulations on the necessity of research done on threatened species. Only research where chimpanzees are the only useful model (ie Hepatitis C) should be allowed to continue. Furthermore, chimpanzee living conditions should be maintained such that future populations of captive bred chimps can be released into the wild with minimal detriment to their ability to survive outside of captivity. In fact, current captive breeding and testing could act as a buffer for wild populations as long as the captive conditions are maintained and would allow for well planned reintroduction.
  • May 13 2012: I've been experimented on myself in medical trials when I had breast cancer. It didn't hurt me. Then I had to be treated for Hepatitis C, twice, with chemotherapy. Total, I've had three years of chemotherapy, but I've knocked out the cancer and the hepatitis. My son also has Hepatitis C. He has not been treated yet, and I fear for him, as he has the symptoms of the disease, and I believe it is advancing. The medication he would take for it differs from the medication I took for it, and they discovered this through research. The first year I was on chemo for Hep C even differed from the second round, which took place about four years later. When I was first diagnosed, my doctor told me I could die from the Hep C. He said the treatment had less than a 10% chance of success. When I took my second year of treatment, the success rate was about 20%, today, the success rate is up to as high as 40%. Whether or not chimps were used in the research, I don't know. Whatever was used, I am grateful to that species.

    It is my belief that we are the species highest on the food chain on earth, so to speak. We are to care for our animals and those creatures more helpless than we. We are never to torture or purposely mistreat them: that is the responsibility that comes with being the big cheese, as we humans are. But I also believe that if experimentation is to be performed on a certain creature to further medical research in order to benefit humanity, then it should be done without debate. We love our animals, but we are not ready to give the world over to them! When push comes to shove, they are there to serve us, as long as it is done humanely and does not finish off a species.. If it were to eradicate a race, but it would save countless lives, then there would need to be public debate., but the verdict may very well be to go ahead and perform the study. Nature gave us this right. Just as we also responsibly study to improve the lives of all animals.
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    May 12 2012: I'm in agreement with Theresa Berkovich in stating that being in endangered has little to do with the implications of bio-medical research.

    I think the determining factor of ethics in this situation has to do when one considers the biological complexity and the possibilities of experience and interest of an organism.

    an organism that can experience a wider range of suffering and pleasure usually the one that seem to be the most protected.

    but since your coming from a biodiversity perspective that means a chimp, from an ethical standpoint, is no different than a fly or flower, since all three serves a suitable purpose to the ecosystem...if that is indeed the case, how exactly do scientist determine what organism gets experimented on?
    • May 13 2012: Depends on what the experimenter needs to do the experiment.
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        May 13 2012: Hi Zared,

        that's true but your missing the point that I'm trying to make. What I'm saying is that if people are concerned about bio-diversity, then they would have to be concerned about the entire biosphere, not just those organisms that can experience a high range of suffering and pleasure. So in moral terms, a fly has just as much ethical value as a dog. A flower has much of an ethical value as much as a chimp. the reason for this is because each organism plays a role in the ecosystem. and I'm sure the endangerment of flies and flowers would be just as impactful on the world as the endangerment of the dolphins and bonobos (I'm only using dolphins and bonobos as a point of comparison and not to state that they are endangered)

        So if this is indeed the case, the moral categories that we use to determine which organisms can be used for such experiments would need to be extended beyond those organism that are capable of having experience or experimenting on any sort of living thing within the biotic communities should be morally vindicated depending on the purpose of the experiment.
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          May 13 2012: In fact the lower down the food chain an organism is the greater the possible effect of its demise. Imagine the effect on the southern oceans if a disease wiped out the krill population. Every other species in antarctica relies on the krill in one way or another.
        • May 13 2012: In terms of the overall population, the fly will not have a same ethical value as a dog; therefore, it is subjected to genetic experiments; a dog will not be subjected to those types of experiments. Perhaps, the fly should have the same ethical value as a dog; however, it is likely that will never happen. This is due to the human perception, which means a dog is more human-like than a fly. I suppose there is a deeper meaning than what I am providing, but I cannot list that information. Morality is just relative and subjective.
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        May 14 2012: Thank you! That exactly proves the point I've been making this entire time...all I've been stating is that when we are relating bio-diversity to morality, its approach has to be holistic and not hierarchical but as you also pointed out most people do not view ethics and morality in this way and for me that is an issue because we tend to become apathetic about other things without realizing that much of our human experiences depends on things that go on throughout nature. If the basic cycle in nature is disturb it can have devastating effects. To be on a more strident side, I would say human ignorance would be the impediment of morality becoming holistic

        And if you happen to read this Peter, you are correct, that is what I've been saying this entire time. Both of you have been saying exactly what I've said only in other words so I'm glad we can all come to an agreement.
        • May 14 2012: Also, the genetic makeup of a fly is far simpler than a dog, I mean there is more to it than just morality playing a role. Monkeys are used for drug studies because the chemical makeup of their brains are similar to the one of human brains.
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          May 14 2012: You never see adds on TV to raise money to protect animals that aren't cute or smart. Smelly slimey animals just don't get a look in
        • May 15 2012: Experiments do not focus on the cuteness of the animal; however, the media cares about the cuteness of the animal because the media wants an audience.
  • May 12 2012: In most approved experiments, yes.
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    May 12 2012: I don't think that the fact that they are endangered has anything to do with the biomedical research. Any facilities that are doing studies on chimps legally cannot go and get them from the wild because for the fact that they are endangered. They must breed them in captivity and use those "lab grown" chimps in their research. So the effect that legal research has on these wild chimps should hypothetically be zero. However, there is always the factor of non state or government regulated facilities who might go out and capture these chimps illegally for research but if there was something that could be done about that don't you think it would have already happened? My point is that legal research doesn't (or shouldn't) effect the wild population so I feel like this question can't really be applied, so the real question is what do you do about those who are doing it the wrong way and with wild chimps.
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      May 14 2012: I agree with Theresa that the problem lies with the labs that are doing it illegally. One this is that a lab could adopt a chimp that was captured for a pet but is no longer wanted. This would hurt the wild populations, but it should not be attributed directly to the labs. As Matt stated, it seems that the biggest problem is habitat loss for the chimps. I feel like that would affect the wild populations much more than using chimps for lab experiments.
  • May 12 2012: Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman notes in his book Thinking: Fast and Slow that the biases impacting our thinking occur automatically, typically without our awareness. And Jonathan Haidt argues that moral judgment is primarily intuitive, not rational. On the topic of medical research with chimpanzees an obvious bias to look out for would be anthropocentrism.
    Peter Singer has argued for a principle of equal consideration for like interests. On his argument there is no objective basis for a claim that human interests have inherently greater value than those of any other sentient being. If we are to attempt greater rationality and objectivity, if we are to attempt moving beyond reliance on anthropocentric bias and intuitive responding, there is also no clear objective basis for placing more wejght on the interests of a chimpanzee than on the like interests of a Norway rat. From an objective, ethical standpoint the criterion of similarity to humans is irrelevant. Doesn't the employment of this criterion simply reinforce anthropocentric bias and faulty intuition?
    It is possible to argue that sacrificing a few chimps to save a lot of humans is justified, but would we apply the same argument if humans were being sacrificed. If not, why not? Anthropocentrism?
    I suspect that the only ethical solution in this case is to do the research on human volunteers who have hepatitis C already, or who are dying from another cause and are willing to be infected with hepatitis. With hundreds of thousands dying each year, surely there could be found some courageous volunteers who would make a great sacrifice to save others.
  • May 12 2012: Didn't Sigourney Weaver got kill in the movie Gorillas in the Mist for being an activist? I ask this because I was just challenged to prove that there are people killed for being activists in this case, killed by the labs where monkey research is done, any one has some info on this?, in my search I did found that some activist have been killed, yet could not find a thing about this specific topic, if any one has more info, please post it here, remember that this conversation will close in 4 days!
    the following links prove that some activist that have been killed, yet I didn't search for those ho have been intimidated, blackmailed & things under those lines....

    Amazon activist killed after dispute with logger

    'Murderers can't go unpunished'

    Cambodian environmental activist killed

    the following link may prove that there are some people that should not be working in a lab
    Monkey Boiled Alive At Research Lab
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    May 11 2012: In just a simple line. Yes if we (society) are agree to perform same experiments on our children.

    Prerak Trivedi
    ( TheIToons
    PrerakTrivedi )
  • May 11 2012: And just don't start with plants have life too stuff. Try to be rational and empathize with animals also. I have not given any theorem that "nothing justifies taking life" that you have to literally find contradictions to it. Take a broader outlook in this point of view.
  • May 11 2012: Hahaha..I'm shocked that you are comparing chimps and other animals who show so many human attributes to fungi and mushrooms. Just be rational and look around this is no evolution going on due to ruthless competition. What competition are you facing from these harmless animals that you are killing them in millions and billions to satisfy yur hunger and clothing even after having so many alternatives. But since you want fungi and mushrooms to be given equal rights as life form without which you won't agree with unjustified killing of animals might as well stop eating those also. I'm pretty sure we can still survive on vegan diet. And FYI lions kills leopards not because they compete for same food but due to competition to raise their young ones as both of them will kill others young ones. Even there we humans have intervened forcing them into such small pockets of land that they are bound to have face off.
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      May 13 2012: I don't believe that any living species is more important than any other living species. As I am unable to survive without killing something I must come to terms with the guilt that results. I am not the uncaring heathen you seem to think I am. I just feel equally guilty for takng any life so I don't descriminate. I don't see how anyone can can say there is a difference between milking a cow or picking fruit. In both cases you are stealing something from another organism that the organism has gone to a lot of trouble to create. If I eat the egg of a chicken or the seed of a wheat plant in both cases the potential offspring of another orgenism has ceased to exist for my benefit. We only value the life of a chimpanzee more because it is more like us, that is being self centred because we value other organisms based on how like us they are.
  • May 11 2012: Hey and hi Mathew! :)
    Humans are a very weird species.
    With that being said, what are we going to do? Humans KILL rats, to study HUMAN illness? Humans do very bad things to monkeys and chimpanzees.
    Humans are so weird.
    ( and very MEAN! )
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      May 12 2012: hahaha humans are weird and very interesting creatures! They can be mean, but the beautiful thing is that they can be anything, even stop being mean. I don't know what we are going to do. Hopefully one day we can appreciate and respect everything around us.
      • May 12 2012: Yea! Then you woke up!
        Humans will never stop being mean. Have you listened to the news, lately?
        Humans will NEVER pull it off. They can't and won't.
        I appreciate your, half glass full, scenario. Still ain't happing. Humans will continue to hurt animals to do research, to cure human illness. Humans will continue to unleash terror and disease on other humans. Humans are mean. ( but ) I love your optimism! :) Respect to ya!
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          May 12 2012: Haha, I hate to be pessimistic because there is a part of me that believes with the right leadership, we could change things for the better. However until that happens, I'm always going to remember that line that one of the agents in The Matrix says to Keanu Reeves' character about humans never reaching any kind of equilibrium with their environment. We consume all the available natural resources in an area until nothing is left, and then move on. A trait we share only with viruses, according to the movie. I feel that the exploitation of chimpanzees is just one more way humans harm their environment. But like I mentioned earlier, I do believe that with the right leadership, this country could change the way we think and act about matters such as this.
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    May 11 2012: As far as I know the chimps used in research are bred from chimps that have been living in captivity for generations. The use of bred chimps is also important for the research, since wild chimps could have diseases, conditions and genetic anomalities that could influence the results.
    So apart from other ethical issues it is not unethical, in my opinion, to use chimps in research just because they are endangered. They are bred in captivity and research does not impact the population living in the wild.

    Do you have any references that say captured wild chimps are being used in biomedical research?
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      May 12 2012:
      It might not be the best source. But it would suggest that it has happened and can still happen today. I'm glad you asked. Are you worried that natural habit for chimps could turn into sanctuaries or is that too extreme to consider being a possibility?
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        May 15 2012: I don't think sanctuaries are a bad thing, but natural habitat should also be preserved. We shouldn't 'domesticate' every animal. (I think that is what you mean by your question?)

        I'm against taking chimps from the wild and using them for research. They've got enough trouble as it is. Not only would it impact the populations but the chimps are in my eyes not fit for experimentation in the first place. If you want an experiment to be sucessful you need to control as many factors as you can. A chimp living in the wild has had a whole life to do things we don't know about.

        I'm not exactly fine with experimenting on chimps raised in captivity either though. They're very intelligent and I think they experience things more intense then mice. The best situation would be no animal testing at all, but alternatives aren't ready yet.
  • May 11 2012: Nothing justifies taking any life whatever it may be.We are nothing but "speciests" to quote from the documentary "Earthlings".We and by we i mean humans treat ourselves to be supreme species and all other species to be of less important.Are we any different than NAZIS then taking our species to be supreme and rest just there to serve our purpose.Imagine we breed other species just to serve our needs in terms of food,clothing etc.If there is something TED has taught us its that there is always an alternative way and we just have to think of it rather than killing innocent endangered apes to test our medicines.And please all non vegetarians and all those trying to justify killing of animals please watch this documentary "Earthlings".You might have a change of heart and a new perspective about life.
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      May 11 2012: " Nothing justifies taking any life whatever it may be" Does that include plants and fungi. They're alive.
      "humans treat ourselves to be supreme species and all other species to be of less important" As do all other species. A lion will quite happily kill a leopard to stop it competing for food. It doesn't even eat the leopard just kills it and leaves it as a warning to any others in the area. Ruthless competition between species is what drives evolution.
  • May 10 2012: Trade, fair exchange, justice.
    These are a few words that seem to cross my mind when I find such conversations as this one.
    Trading with the animal kingdom instead of stealing from it, to my knowledge there is almost non fair exchange with the “lower” species, & most of the people that are direct participants seem to lack a healthy mind, sadly they could be described as sociopaths & other adjectives that clearly should grant a ticket to a psychiatric institution, yet most governments, if not all, elude this facts.
    Trade & fair exchange may be seen when thinking about some animals like chicken & turkey, also with plants like corn and rice, yet these trades are not fare nor applied with other plants nor other animals. The consequences are hunger, pain, & extinction to name a few. As previously stated, those ho are direct participants seem to lack a healthy mind, due to this, planing & innovation is scarce in that arena, the prevailing consequence is huge void of justice, this ends up hitting all of us, our dreams, our hopes, our wallets...
    There is the need to use these vast living resources, yet there is no need to extinguish any of them, however most of them have already been decimated.

    Trade, fair exchange, justice.
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      May 11 2012: I can assure you that the people using animals in medical research aren't sociopaths and don't get pleasure out of using animals. Animals in laboratoria here are treated better then the average housepet. There are stricter regulations for testing on animals then there are for testing on humans. Seriously, it's harder to get permission for using mosquitoes then it is for using humans.
      Just because somebody does something you don't agree with, doesn't make him a sociopath, that's a bit shortsighted.
      • Comment deleted

  • May 10 2012: I see nothing wrong with breeding chimps for medical research if it shows promise in helping to cure a disease. If chimps in the wild were the only source of research subjects, then I would have a much bigger problem with this. If these animals are being treated lawfully, then research should not be stopped just because they are endangered. This research gives the chimps even more value then they already have because if the wild populations are gone then this valuable medical research could be lost along with the chimps.
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      May 12 2012: Neat reasoning. Never thought about adding a value for potential knowledge being lost. So if you had to pick one knowing that the other would cease to exist what would you choice? Research or natural habitat for wild chimps.
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    May 10 2012: I think this is a question of ethics. There are plenty of other disease that are much more deadly to humans. I think that instead of using chimps for testing with Hepatitis C, we should focus on other disease that cause more deaths until we can find a better way to solve the Hepatitis C problem. It just seems like we cant have too many scientist working for a cure for cancer or heart disease which kill more people each year than Hepatitis C. Also finding cures for these disease don't require the use of chimps which is great!
  • May 10 2012: Look this is the only owrld we have. Chimps and even whales are especially important because they are like us.
    there are seven (7) billion people in the world. We can have too much of a good thing. someday
    there will be more people. If you have ever had a mother who had unlimited cats or you have raised
    livestock, you know that if the habitat is messed up there coulc be fewer people. There can and probably
    will be too much of a good thing. We are seeing the return of some health problems in the U>S> as average
    weekly wages fall. Now with obesity run wild we are seeing the "HUnger Games." Read Malthus like
    darwin and Wallace did.
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    May 10 2012: I think the bigger issue when looking at chimpanzee testing, is perhaps the general moral issue of animal (or monkey, ape, and chimp) testing itself. Knowing that these very close relatives of ours are conscious thinkers and innovators very similar to ourselves, we should be thinking twice about the sorts of testing we inflict upon them. The issue of whether the animal is endangered or not seems to be less important to me because most of these monkeys, apes, and chimps are bred in captivity to be experimented on. Thus not leaving an impact specifically on the further endangerment of the species.
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      May 10 2012: The problem is that it's their genetic similarity that makes them good test subjects. The further away (genetically) the organism is the less useful the test is.
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    May 10 2012: Well Matthew,
    That topic question is set up for me to answer, no it is not ethical to experiment with endangered chimpanzees, and that is truly what I believe. To bring my scope into the subject of Hepatitis C, well, I think that there will be a discovery of a cure without the use of chimpanzees. There should be better ways to experiment without using chimpanzees. Though, according to natural selection, the human population will eventually develop an immunity to it from the survivors of the disease. As dark as that sounds, some things in life don't have nice answers, but it is a fact of life. =/
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    May 10 2012: We cannot know (at least with our present technologies and intuition) whether animals truly experience pain and pathos the same way that humans do.

    But ever since observation and analysis of animals started, the trend has been toward an increased realization of their self-awareness. Descartes regarded animals as automatons, mere machines—allowing that they felt the “prick” of pain, but none of the passion which humans associate with it.

    Fifty years ago Aldo Leopold saw the “green fire” in a mother wolf’s eyes. Today we observe old elephants in mourning circles; with the surge of documentaries like Planet Earth and Nature, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that a chimpanzee puffing out his lower lip is merely acting by instinct, not pouting.

    I’m not asserting that animals (or plants or fungi) experience emotion the same way that humans do. What I am offering is this: since year after year the more we learn, the more our evidence seems to point in the direction of a self-conscious, we should start to regard that consciousness as the likely scenario—one that we just have not quite pinned down—rather than the unlikely one.

    The question of ethics, then, is no better solved. Assuming that a daisy may be delighted, a chimp cheery, do we really want to feel compunction for stepping on one (and perhaps killing it), and injecting the other with a virus (perhaps killing it)? Of course, phrased that way, experimenting on a chimp seems much worse.

    I am—uneasily—for testing on chimps. There needs to be a study done making sure that with each disease we destroy, another does not spring up in its place. My real worry is the ultimate fruitlessness of these endeavors.
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    May 10 2012: Think of a world where the only chimps known to man are those in the pages of a book. If we no longer view them as an important tool in research of human disease dont you feel that eventually hunting for their pelts and meat will get out of control?
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      May 10 2012: Interesting, supporting the research and usage of the endangered species will save the species. Never thought of it that way.....sounds a bit counter productive, but that sounds like a valid point worth pondering about.
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      May 10 2012: I think this is a very interesting way to look at it also. After a little pondering on the idea I came up with the fact that those who currently hunt the chimpanzees for their pelts and meat probably don't care too much about the chimpanzees importance in research. It isn't very common, at least here obviously, to hear about research being done on chimpanzees so I feel as if it stopped than we still wouldn't really know. On that note the majority are bred in captivity, I assume so they don't really affect the other populations.

      So what I mean to say is that I think those who hunt chimpanzees don't care about the fact that they are useful in research and so if we stopped using them than hunting would stay the same and not get too out of control. This is an interesting idea and I'm glad you brought it up. It will be interesting to see how it turns out.
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    May 10 2012: What if the captive bread test chimps are eventually the only chimps left? They could end up an inadvertant captive breeding program.
    On a more topic related note hopefully the need for animal testing will be eliminated as computer modelling becomes more effective. Creating a virtual human that can be exposed to virtual drugs will be the future.
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      May 10 2012: I would have to agree that the use of chimpanzees for biomedical research will soon become a thing of the past as our knowledge of the human body and ability to create intricate computer models will far surpasses the benefits of live testing. Chimpanzee testing can then be seen as one of many environmental problems that are fleeting, and represent a mere stepping stone during human history. Unfortunately, habitat destruction is not a mere stepping stone. As such, I feel the attention should be placed on chimpanzee habitat restoration and protection, along with more stringent regulation on illegal hunting. Ethics of animal testing aside, I think it is important to recognize long term threats versus short term threats and direct resources accordingly.
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      May 13 2012: I'm not sure that a computer program may ever be able to model the complex reactions between organic life forms. We use research such as the testing of animals to further our knowledge of how viruses react to treatment. This research must then be entered into a computer to make this virtual human. If the cures scientists are testing were perfect, then a computer model would work because the desired outcome could always be expected. Research, however, is the process of testing to prove or disprove a hypothesis. If we don't know the results, we can't enter that information into a program. Logically, we might expect a cure to work, but millions of micro reactions, that we don't know about yet, might compromise the cure. In my opinion, a computer program that could model these interactions would imply an already infinite understanding of the virus, at which point, we would already have a cure.
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        May 13 2012: Actually the chemistry involved in most pharmaceutical based medical treatments is very simple. And you don't need a virtual human. If you are testing a treatment for Hep-c you only need a virtual liver. The rest can be eliminated by engineering treatments that naturally deposit in liver tissue. This limits the exposure of other tissue types to the medication. Remember also ten years ago a 10GB hard drive was massive and pentium 330MHz processors were cutting edge!
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    May 9 2012: It is not that I lack sympathy for chimps that are kept in dubious conditions and forced test subjects. However, I think that this ethical issue does not directly overlap the status of chimps as endangered. Currently, there are about 1200 chimps in the US specifically for research testing with about half of those being keep by the US government. I hardly think 1200 individuals, the vast majority of which were bred for the specific purpose of being test subjects (though the aggressive breeding techniques used might be another ethical topic of conversation), even remotely compares to the numbers of individuals lost due to habitat loss.

    Thus, I agree with Frans. The "endangered-ness" of the species is a separate issue from the ethics of animal testing. In this case, it seems to me that testing on sentient beings is barbarous, though the real work to save the species should be focused on habitat preservation.
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    May 9 2012: It is like asking: "Is it right to kill two whales to save one panda". Why is testing or rats valid? If that becomes invalid, why is testing on worms valid? If that becomes invalid, and so on. Here we come to the debate of whether testing at all is valid. Most of these test go through several stages before they get tested on chimps, if they get tested on chimps at all. Plus I hope I don't have to mention that all tests are done with the prospect of not harming the animal in any way. Of course this happens, because any experiment is bound to go wrong.

    If we were to clone a mammoth and that mammoth was the best test-subject after humans. Would it be okay to start test procedures? If the possible result is that millions (if not billions counting future generations) to be better of through this research?

    We could go in a different direction: Why are we still eating meat? Why are we still eating plants? Aren't plants alive? Do they not have the right to live? Even though they, like most animals, are not considered rational.

    Plus let me add: Most chimpanzees are born in captivity, like their parents, and probably like their grandparents. Those being "kidnapped" are not being kidnapped by the scientific community. So instead of condemning progress, why not condemn the people that kidnap them? Because last time I checked most chimps in captivity live much longer lives that those in the wild.
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      May 9 2012: I'm not sure if I understand your position completely. Are you suggesting that questioning testing on a particular animal leads to an introduction of a cascading slippery slope argument? Or, are you making the slippery slope argument yourself?

      Taking such an argument to its logical end you could easily say 'why have ethics at all?'. To which someone might respond: Because the alternative is nihilism and thus is self contradictory. Attributing ethical value is simply what we do as a species. Boundaries are set within this 'ethical gradient' by values held by our culture. Why do we eat plants? Because we tend to value sustenance over starvation. Why meat? It tastes good. Why not dogs? Because they are our friends. And on and on.

      Again, maybe we agree, but I'm not sure.

      To your last paragraph, it's interesting that you qualify this 'progress' by suggesting that a longer lifespan is the basis for some kind of net positive gain for the animals in question. Does someone in a long term care facility necessarily have a higher quality of life than someone who suffers an early death simply because they happened to live longer?

      I think condemnation of one community or another completely misses the point. We have a set of information: Chimpanzees are tested on, they are somewhat intelligent creatures, they are tested on in captivity, they have no choice in the matter, there are tangible medical benefits to this testing, etc. However, the ethical imperative can only be discussed in the context of what to do now with that set of information. The scientific community could just as well decide that any chimps they come across should be let go into a wild habitat and that testing should cease. Who captured them doesn't really have any bearing on the conversation.

      I'm not making an argument for or against testing, just pointing out that this kind of thinking dodges the issue completely.
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    May 9 2012: Biomedical research on chimps is barbarous but to protect the last groups we need to protect their habitats.
    Those are different things. Without their natural habitat they're already extinct even if there are thousands around over the world.
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      May 9 2012: First of all, chimps are not extinct if they don't have their natural habitat. Extinction is defined as something that is no longer in existence; that has ended or died out. Their natural habitat is important, but chimps are smart enough to adapt to a new environment outside of their natural one, just as humans have adapted to an internal environment from an outside environment. As long as we preserve a functional habitat for chimpanzees they will be fine, not ideal but our world isn't and ideal world. It is dynamic, and constantly changing, and it is our job (as species) to adapt to those changes.

      Now, although I agree that chimp research is not the greatest way to treat chimps, research on chimps is a necessary evil. By testing chimpanzees for Hepatitis C, we are furthering our knowledge of the natural world and can avoid a vast amount of deaths by learning from said research. A dilemma comes from whether or not we should place value in the existence of their species instead of ours, and I for one have a great deal of trouble saying that the lives of 350,000 humans is not worth the 1200 chimps we research on. It's very difficult to define the ratio of how many chimps must die to save X amount of humans; but in my mind, as long as the deaths due to researching on chimps doesn't not significantly threaten their existence, then testing is completely ethical in my mind.

      Our efforts should not be in stopping medical research, but instead in finding a way to promote the growth of chimpanzee habitats or preventing habitat loss.
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        May 10 2012: Rishi,
        It is funny how you start off saying that their habitats aren't important because they will adapt. I'm not sure chimpanzees will adapt into human cities like we do, but if they did then that would be a bit dangerous for both parties. If they were left in a desert area, then the chimpanzees would most likely not have enough knowledge to dig for water undergroung or half the population/all the population of endangered chimps will die off. If the chimps were to go to live in the sea, well that one is obvious....but my point is that at the end you say we should prevent and promote growth and habitat loss, which kind of counters your own idea in your first paragraph. I hope you know that you can't destroy a forest and preserve/promote chimpanzees and their habitats, that defies logic. I could also have misinterpreted your comment. =)
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        May 10 2012: Animals who has to survive in the Zoo or other artificial places are actually extinct as their natural habitat is destroyed. They will change over the generations and become like dogs compared to wolves and the like. You still could call them by the same name but a dog is no wolf.

        I didn't say we have to stop all medical research, I said that it's barbaric and all effort has to be given to minimize the use of animals and particularly primates.