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United States Science

Proposed Rule Would Drastically Restrict Chimp Research 134

Posted by timothy
from the drawing-certain-lines dept.
New rules for labs that use chimpanzees as test subjects may be on the horizon. From the New York Times blog: "The Fish and Wildlife Service proposal came in response to a petition filed in 2010 by the Jane Goodall Institute, the Humane Society of the United States, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and other groups. It would require permits for interstate commerce involving any chimpanzees, or for what the law calls 'taking,' which could be anything from harassment to major harm to something as simple as obtaining a blood sample. And those permits, Mr. Ashe said, would be granted only if the action could be shown to benefit the survival of the species. If the new rule is enacted, it will be a major success for animal welfare groups, a grave disappointment for some scientists and another sign of the profound changes over the last half-century in the way animals are used and imagined in science and popular culture." The L.A. Times lauds the proposed rule change in an editorial.
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Proposed Rule Would Drastically Restrict Chimp Research

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  • thank god (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Leave the chimps alone. In fact, we should dedicate a greater share of the world to the rest of the planet's creatures, and that includes limiting the harmful effects of our pollution and industry not because of politics but simply because we have such a precious and finite resource in this jewel of the Earth and the delicate beauty of Life.

    • by tuppe666 (904118) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @11:50AM (#44021979)

      Leave the chimps alone. In fact, we should dedicate a greater share of the world to the rest of the planet's creatures, and that includes limiting the harmful effects of our pollution and industry not because of politics but simply because we have such a precious and finite resource in this jewel of the Earth and the delicate beauty of Life.

      This is about infinite resource of furry beautiful creatures bred specifically for the purpose of (often) having short unpleasant painful life, for the sake of the possibility (patents permitting and money exchanged) of saving...or preventing damage to humans...Discuss.

      This has nothing to do with pollution, or the misuse of the planets finite resources. Its about everything from research on dogs means diabetics today don't die, or humans don't do blind by spaying shampoo in baby rabbits eyes (the fact that the discussion is about chimps at all annoys me...as they are prettier). Its not pretty, its ugly science. The only real question is the validity of that science.

      • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @12:01PM (#44022045)

        > The only real question is the validity of that science.
        Also the moral price of that science. The discussion is about chimps instead of rabbits because the evidence all points to chimps being almost as sapient as us, the rabbits... not so much. And sapience is pretty much the only thing we can point to when trying to claim humans are "better" than other animals. Take away that yardstick and we may as well be experimenting directly on humans.

        • Mixed Morality (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tuppe666 (904118) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @12:15PM (#44022123)

          Also the moral price of that science. The discussion is about chimps instead of rabbits because the evidence all points to chimps being almost as sapient as us, the rabbits... not so much

          Chimps are not human...or even nearly human(sentient?). They are perhaps genetically closer to us which means they are better to test on than rabbits. Personally I would like a ban on testing fluffy rabbits...and more testing on chimps, as it seems less wasteful.

          Ironically we already do trials on humans, even in progressive countries, which are done by those who have no other means of income, and with no understanding of the risks involved. I actually think that is morally wrong.

          • No, they *are* nearly human, that is the point. And they are sentient, sapient, and self-aware

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            Look at the research. All evidence points to chimps being every bit as sentient (feeling, percieving, conscious, capable of experienceing subjective reality) as we are, and in almost exactly the same manner - their response to physical and social stimulus parallels ours almost perfectly. They are generally accepted as less sapient (inteligent, wise, capable of abstract thought) than us, but the difference is not as wide as you might think - roughly comparable to a 4 to 5-year old human child IIRC.

            As for h

            • They are generally accepted as less sapient (inteligent, wise, capable of abstract thought) than us, but the difference is not as wide as you might think - roughly comparable to a 4 to 5-year old human child IIRC.

              4 and 5 years old kids can talk, read, write and paint recognizable objects. Chimps cannot. They may be smart but they are not at the same level as even a 4-5 year old child.

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                Correction, they lack fine motor control and vocal apparatus capable of producing speech. Teach them sign language and provide incentive to learn it comparable to speech for a human child and (IIRC) they actually learn even faster than humans for the first few years of their life and then plateau off. We seem to have a lot of neural wiring specifically geared for speech - the ability to communicate complex thoughts is probably the single largest advantage we have over other apes, it allows for collaborati

        • by Time_Ngler (564671) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @12:17PM (#44022133)

          Fuck nature.

          Nature itself is one constant experiment to promote successful genes and weed out unsuccessful ones. That fear of falling from a great height you have? Millions or billions of creatures had to fall from cliffs for that. Those wonderful ocular orbs which are versatile to see in bright sunlight and very dim night light, millions or billions of creatures that could not see as well were caught and eaten by predators, too.

          These experiments that scientists are doing, what maybe at most a 100 thousand creatures died in the last century for them? And what about all the people that were saved by that? The ratio of benefit vs suffering is much better from the experiments we carry out on our own, rather than the giant wasteful experiment that nature carries out.

          • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

            by jythie (914043)
            The cost tends to be considered worth it when someone else (or some other group) is the one paying it.
            • It seems my point went over your head. You may need some review. Ask yourself this, what was the point I was trying to make? And how does what you wrote address my point in any way?

              • by Immerman (2627577)

                I have to disagree. Yes, creatures die all the time, that mutation are the key to evolution. But by your own argument why whouldn't we simply lock *you* in the cage for experimentation? The results would be far more useful than those from chimps.

                You can claim to embrace a world without moral consideration, but I'm betting the instant its you being tortured on the front lines of scientific advancement you're going to start crying about fairness and justice and your rights being violated. But hey, clearly

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Parent post argument is at least 25 years out of date.

            A lot of the research that was only possible using animals then can now be done by non-invasive means and computer simulations. The day when almost all research can be done this way is not far off. This is not because the new ways are ethically better (even though they are). It is because the new ways allow faster and more comprehensive studies at much lower total costs. It is indeed time to consider using legal ways to force the biological R & D in

            • by Immerman (2627577) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @03:09PM (#44023187)

              >The day when almost all research can be done this way is not far off.

              Maybe not on geologic timescales...

              Sure, we'll have simulated test subjects suitable for high school and maybe even undergraduate level "experiments" before long. But we're probably a long way away from being able to simulate even the simplest animals on a molecular level, and anything short of that has limited utility to original research. Sure, if we simulate all the known chemical responses then we can get a first-order approximation of reactions to screen for any unanticipated side effects within the realm of known responses, and millions of mice and grad student hours will be saved from time-consuming preliminary experiments (presumably I can set my experiment running and come back in the morning to see in painstaking detail the possible progress of a ten-year exposure). But that won't actually tell you anything about the effect on poorly understood processes, which at present are still most of them.

            • by gd2shoe (747932)

              Computer simulations are a good place to start... but we're still a long way from having simulations that give great predictions. In order to model something, you must fully understand it. We don't. Any simulation we run is based upon our limited understanding, and cannot lead to new knowledge. They can help us prevent mistakes that we could have foreseen instead of discovering them through testing, but they cannot confirm that a given hypothesis has a basis in fact.

              And you can't fMRI your way to predic

              • Laws that encourage rethinking the research process are a good thing right now, as it is definitely the case that a lot of unnecessary and costly research is being done on animals when it could be done better using advanced technology. A key part of the problem is that too many of today's researchers are only trained in the techniques that were made elegant 100 years ago and naturally see the increasing use of newer technology as a threat to their way of life. It is much more than a threat to their liveliho

                • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @06:13PM (#44024183) Journal
                  "A key part of the problem is that too many of today's researchers are only trained in the techniques that were made elegant 100 years ago and naturally see the increasing use of newer technology as a threat to their way of life."

                  I do biological research for a living, and have done so for many years, in multiple different fields, in different universities and now in the biotech/pharma industry. No technique I use existed 100 years ago any more than any technique a programmer uses existed 100 years ago. The majority of biochemistry and molecular biology techniques that I use have their primitive origins in the 1960s-1990s, depending on what the technique is, and the overwhelming majority have been heavily modified, adapted, repurposed, and improved since their introduction. Far from being afraid of new technologies and new techniques biologists are absolutely driven to use them, find them, adapt them, and invent them. Who do you think comes up with new techniques, including computer simulations relevant to biological research? People who do biological research of course! There are whole research journals devoted to nothing but new techniques, every one of them invented by some variety of biologist! There are hundreds of biotechnology companies where biologists do little else besides come up with new techniques (yes, including computer simulations and programs) that they can then package and sell to other biologists. Pharmaceutical companies spend many millions of dollars testing new techniques--I've got several different projects assigned to me right now that are nothing but testing and adapting new technologies. A pharmaceutical company that is not constantly innovating goes bankrupt, and a biologist who doesn't innovate is an unemployed and starving biologist.
                  • Good for you!

                    Then these laws will not affect your research, or that of all the other biologists who have kept pace with technology, huh? They would probably only affect that small percentage of repetitious experimental work that is done by corporations seeking approval for new cosmetics, food additives, clothing treatments, and so on. What would that be? Only 90% of all the research that is being done today?

                    According to USDA, there were 1.1 million animals used in research in 2010 (the latest year of data

                    • Good for you!

                      Then these laws will not affect your research, or that of all the other biologists who have kept pace with technology, huh? They would probably only affect that small percentage of repetitious experimental work that is done by corporations seeking approval for new cosmetics, food additives, clothing treatments, and so on.

                      There is a cost associated with regulation. Let us say that there is a group of scientists doing work to detect the biological basis of cancer that does not harm the chimpanzees in any way. They now have to go through the additional steps of getting permits for the most trivial of tasks -- such as transporting the animals from one lab to another. This is not necessary regulation, and it is associated with a small cost that will directly (though in small magnitude) diminish the effectiveness of the scienc

                    • If this is medical school is in the USA, you and your fellow students are undergoing a very thorough indoctrination in the appropriate use of clinical detachment. Those who cannot handle that skill set rarely finish the course.

          • Well, in that case, we ought to be allowed to experiment on humans against their will, surely. I mean, chimps are similar to us, but they're not identical, and those dissimilarities slow down human-applicable research. if vivisecting a few hundred screaming humans can advance lifesaving medical science, why, it would be selfish not to strap them down!
        • Who says we don't experiment on humans? Remember, to various groups inside humanity, many people outside the group are experimental fodder.

          Consider the various religious who, at times, might view those of other religions / non-religions to lack that something special, and thus, fall short of the privileges of full citizen of whatever; however, they might still be deemed as having some value as test subjects; the same may be said from the other side, that of atheism, whereby the religious are seen are brain-

          • by jythie (914043)
            Well, I think the point is that in developed nations we do not do the same types of involuntary experimentation on humans that we do on non-humans, and people are generally outraged when they hear about it being done in developing countries.

            On another note though, you would be surprised at how good the simulations actually are. The issue often comes down to results being ignored if they do not have the political marketing behind them. Generally the decision makers what simulations that back up what they
          • by Joe Tie. (567096)
            Was this not an experiment?

            No, that'd be tossed out by any journal for having horrible methodology. None of those are experiments. An experiment isn't just seeing something happening and noting the results. You need tight controls that get rid of every possible unwanted variable that can be removed.
        • by C10H14N2 (640033)

          And sapience is pretty much the only thing we can point to when trying to claim humans are "better" than other animals. Take away that yardstick and we may as well be experimenting directly on humans.

          Rather telling that the same vanity is used to both support and oppose the act in question...

      • When it comes to the Great Apes, I think there are serious ethical questions to be raised. These animals are our closest relatives, sharing, even if in lesser degrees, many of our cognitive and psychological features. I don't think it is going too far to call them sentient, and while I realize that this very close physiological and neurological relationship to humans make them valuable as test subjects, I just can't support their continued use in such a way.

        • by houghi (78078)

          I don't think it is going too far to call them sentient

          So is sentient important or how close they are to us? Perhaps you mean both.
          So if we get proof that they are NOT sentient, then we can go on using them as test subjects?

          If you want to protect them, tell it how it is: they LOOK too much like us on the outside. I am sure you are well aware that pigs are also often used, because they resemble people in many ways, yet they do not look like us (and they produce bacon) so that is less problematic for many.

          As

      • Work about morality of science?

      • by dasunt (249686)

        This has nothing to do with pollution, or the misuse of the planets finite resources. Its about everything from research on dogs means diabetics today don't die, or humans don't do blind by spaying shampoo in baby rabbits eyes (the fact that the discussion is about chimps at all annoys me...as they are prettier). Its not pretty, its ugly science. The only real question is the validity of that science.

        There's also the question of ethics. We have data from the Nazi human experimentation on hypothermia, and w

  • by 54mc (897170) <samuelmcraven@ g m a il.com> on Sunday June 16, 2013 @11:30AM (#44021901)
    From TFA:

    In fact, most of the roughly 1,000 chimps held at biomedical laboratories are not being used.

    I'd be curious why this is - already too much regulation? The article goes on to say that they hope to pass them on to shelters. I'd certainly hope that's the case if they're not being utilized

    • by intermelt (196274)

      If they aren't being utilized aren't they technically already sheltered? Would there be better conditions at a different shelter? I'd like to know what sort of daily conditions the "un-utilized" chimps have.

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        I'd bet they are, at best, kept in a relatively sterile cage rather like a dog kennel. Shelters on the other hand tend to acknolwedge that these are animals almost as psychologically sophisticated as us and provide vegetation, recreational facilites, and usually large open-air spaces. Ask any human prisoner and I'll bet good money that they say that getting time outdoors, even in the generally bleak and barren prison yard, is a precious privilege. And while we can think a lot better than chimps our emoti

        • by bryonak (836632)

          These chimps were bred specifically for this purpose and wouldn't exist otherwise. Being alive solely to undergo a procedure you never got the chance to even realise, let alone agree/disagree with, makes you just "material with a specific function" and is about as dehumanising as it gets.
          IMO likening it to human prisoners is off the mark.

          The question is whether we should be allowed to create living, feeling, intelligent beings for experimental purposes.
          That this helps and saves members of our own species is

          • by Immerman (2627577)

            So why not breed humans in cages for experimental research? Then they'd just be "material with a specific function" as well. Same argument. If we discovered tomorrow that humanity was actually a breeding colony created by alien researchers would that somehow reduce the value of your life to you?

            As for your second paragraph you leave a gaping ethical hole: what of the intelligent beings created illegally? We're probably not far from the point of being able to manipulate organisms to develop human-class s

            • by bryonak (836632)

              So why not breed humans in cages for experimental research? Then they'd just be "material with a specific function" as well. Same argument. If we discovered tomorrow that humanity was actually a breeding colony created by alien researchers would that somehow reduce the value of your life to you?

              Because we agree that this would be cruel, "do unto others what you wish done unto you", "we can do better than that", etc. We think it abhorrent to regard other people as material.
              But to be perfectly honest, I don't see the life of a bird anywhere near equivalent to the life of a human, i.e. even though birds have intelligence >0 and show feelings in form of caring towards their young, the classical "you can only save one" scenario would be no real contest IMO. Is it "speciesism"? Where does it stop? Ca

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        If they aren't being utilized aren't they technically already sheltered? Would there be better conditions at a different shelter? I'd like to know what sort of daily conditions the "un-utilized" chimps have.

        he meant PETA shelters.. you know, so that they chimps wouldn't be wasting precious food from humans anymore.

    • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Sunday June 16, 2013 @12:00PM (#44022041)

      Partly because there's been a decreasing number of cases where the scientific consensus is that the use of chimpanzees as animal models is needed, relative to alternatives. Since you need to convince an Institutional Review Board (for any study, not only involving chimps) that your study is necessary, beneficial, and the best choice relative to alternatives when considering both scientific merit and ethics, there are a decreasing number of cases where IRBs approve chimpanzee studies. Cost is also a factor besides IRB issues: if you can do something without chimps, it's usually cheaper to take that option.

      Here's a blurb from the National Research Council's 2011 study on the subject [amazon.com], in which they set up a "Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research" to assess the current situation and make recommendations:

      While the chimpanzee has been a valuable animal model in past research, most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary, based on the criteria established by the committee, except potentially for two current research uses:

      1. Development of future monoclonal antibody therapies will not require the chimpanzee, due to currently available technologies. However, there may be a limited number of monoclonal antibodies already in the development pipeline that may require the continued use of chimpanzees.

      2. The committee was evenly split and unable to reach consensus on the necessity of the chimpanzee for the development of a prophylactic hepatitis C virus (HCV) vaccine. Specifically, the committee could not reach agreement on whether a preclinical challenge study using the chimpanzee model was necessary and if or how much the chimpanzee model would accelerate or improve prophylactic HCV vaccine development.

      That's from the biomedical-research recommendations; their conclusions on behavior research were that chimpanzee models may still be quite valuable in that area. In addition, they recommended that genomics research using chimpanzee genomes was both valuable and of relatively little ethical concern, so should continue.

  • Great news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by russotto (537200) on Sunday June 16, 2013 @11:32AM (#44021907) Journal

    ...for the biological and biomedical research industries of other countries.

    • ...for the biological and biomedical research industries of other countries.

      That means the funding is going to come from someplace other than my taxes.

      • by tftp (111690)

        That means the funding is going to come from someplace other than my taxes.

        All the profits and patents will also go to whoever pays for the research. Access to the treatment will be gated by foreign governments. (Not that the US government isn't attempting that already.)

  • Inhuman practices by research groups gives science a bad name, even if you feel it is mere public perception. This will help science more that it hurts it given advances in simulation and lab grown tissue methods of research. The more social traction we can get the better.
  • Oh, the article is about research on chimps, not by chimps. Guess I should have read it first.
  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Sunday June 16, 2013 @11:41AM (#44021939)

    The fact that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is involved makes me suspect there might be something more to this story than just activist opposition to research involving primates. That association tends to not be very political, and instead is focused more on best practices for zoos, and how to combat things like poaching for the pet or traditional-medicine industries.

  • If chimps are found a use in science, that would do more for their survival than any preservation program. This regulation shouldn't cover chimps bred in captivity.

    • Your post reminded me about how Rhinos are endangered due to the black market value of their horn, the sale of which was made completely illegal in order to protect them...

      There's numerous people who argue that if you legalized the sale of non-lethally harvested horns* from ranched Rhinos, their endangered status would go away because the black market would essentially be no more.

      *Rhino horn is essentially fused hair; it grows back!

  • ... Ham [wikipedia.org] would say about all this.

  • The correlation to humans of results obtained from vivisection on any animals (including chimps) has always been questionable at best.

    The reasons vivisection is still conducted comes down to 3 points:

    1) Inflicting suffering on animals is unfortunately relatively cheap compared to more humane methods, even though the humane methods can produce better results.

    2) Nearly all scientists that already perform vivisection simply don't want to adapt from the techniques they already are most familiar with, regardless

    • by Trepidity (597)

      For better or worse, this proposed rule isn't really targeting the use of animals in research generally, only chimpanzees specifically. While some former uses of chimpanzees are being replaced by non-animal models (e.g. computational simulations), the most common replacements are other animals. In particular, genetically modified mice, which can now be modified to better mimic various kinds of human in vivo conditions, are used for a lot of things that other animals would've once been used for.

      • by JustNiz (692889)

        Yes, I agree, we need anti-vivisection legislation for all animals, not just chimps.
        Its a shame that even the government is shallow enough to only be concerned about "cute" animals or ones that most physically resemble humans.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Your understanding of science and biology seems to be stuck some time in the 19th century, and your terminology is intended to tie legitimate research to Nazi methods, which involved cutting people open without anesthesia.

      Researchers go out of their way to treat chimps as well as possible and keep them comfortable, not just because they actually tend to get attached to the animals, but also because chimps are expensive and because discomfort destroys research results. There is no legislation requiring "vivi

      • by JustNiz (692889)

        Really? trying to stop pain and suffering is an outdated concept that belongs in the 19th century? Wow. I think it is you that has the screwed up understanding (and morality), not me.

        And FYI the term "vivisection" is the correct one. I'm sorry your limited/culturally biassed (lack of) education associates it only with Nazis.

  • I think chimps should be able to research any field of science they want. Just because some congressman went and saw Planet of the Apes doesn't mean that we should restrict them in such a way.
  • Which species?

    And that is a strange phrase. I cannot think of any research that helps the survival of either Humans or Chimps.

    • >I cannot think of any research that helps the survival of either Humans or Chimps.

      Uh...

    • by tftp (111690)

      I cannot think of any research that helps the survival of either Humans or Chimps.

      Sorry to hear that. Perhaps an example will help:

      "This here vial contains a drug that is effective in treatment of diabetes, and is harmless. True or false?"

      • "Survival of the Human species" means something very specific. It does not mean happiness, it does not mean quality of life, it does not mean saving lives.
        In fact saving the weak necessarily hurts the survivability of the species.

        • by tftp (111690)

          "Survival of the Human species" [...] does not mean saving lives.

          It can be easily shown that survival of the species does mean saving lives. That's just by definition of the word "survival."

          It can be also shown that survival of one human may lead to survival of the whole civilization. Just as an example, if the inventor of the warp drive dies young, before inventing the thing, the Borg can assimilate the Earth before another inventor shows up. The civilization is facing many challenges today. Would we

          • You are just being illogical.

            That is like saying you help the survival of a single human by preventing paper cuts. Not to mention that our species is only here because of death and genocide on a massive scale. Natural Section only creates and maintains species with massive death; And without it any and all species would eventually become unviable.

            "Would we better off if Steven Hawking died young? Will his work lead to construction of hyperspace drive 20 years later?" Then what about the guy who invented the

          • by Weedlekin (836313)

            It can be easily shown that survival of the species does mean saving lives. That's just by definition of the word "survival."

            Survival of a species means survival of genes, not individuals. Individual survival can be detrimental to species survival if the number of individuals becomes too large for its environment to support, in which case the species as a whole can become extinct.

            Note also that civilization is new in both human and evolutionary terms (around 10,000 years old), so the jury is still out on whether it turns out to be something that helps with our long term species survival, or ends up being something whose short-ter

    • by quantaman (517394)

      Which species?

      And that is a strange phrase. I cannot think of any research that helps the survival of either Humans or Chimps.

      My reading is that most of the research on chimps is either some kind of basic research or direct efforts to improve human health. This is the research this rule would eliminate.

      But if some disease starts wiping out wild chimpanzee populations the researchers are still allowed to experiment on them to save other chimps.

  • They're vastly overpopulated, and a much closer genetic match to our own species.

  • Instead of using Chimps in the drug testing, let's use Politicians. That way we can be sure that no potentially intelligent life forms are being abused.

  • What this likely does is increase the cost of owning *any* chimp, for *any* purpose, including conservation, in the US. And decrease the benefit.

    Most will be sold off abroad where the laws aren't so stringent. The conservationist sympathizers will feel all warm and fuzzy about themselves, because all the chimps *they see* will be "retired", but most of the chimps affected end up with worse lives.

  • While I am not in favor of harming animals for the sake of harming them. This statute if it goes into effect is a two sided coin. Many of the treatments that we have for human beings were first perfected on animals. Those same treatments also benefit animals. Right now, people, right or wrong, spend millions of dollars on various treatments for their pets that are basically the results of animal testing on the way to perfecting treatments for humans. If you take away that research avenue, then where will t

  • History is a constant expansion of the group definition in size and abstraction. It seems to satisfy some innate group definition and protection part of the evolved human motivation array.
    • by Sqreater (895148)
      I feel that in less than 100 years animals, especially the apes, will have representatives in the legislatures of the developed world who will have voiting rights on behalf of their animal constituents.

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

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