January 2010

FASEB Opposes Great Ape Protection Act


For more information

• FASEB’s joint letter to the House of Representatives concerning the Great Ape Protection Act can be found at http://bit.ly/6aPRSc.

• If you would like more information on this legislation and its status, contact Carrie D. Wolinetz at cwolinetz@faseb.org or 301-634-7650.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology is leading opposition to the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 1326), a bill that would end all invasive research on great apes, including chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans and gibbons. (Note: Gibbons are not technically great apes, but they are defined as such in the legislation.)

In a letter sent to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives, FASEB, along with other scientific organizations, patient-advocacy groups and research institutions, expressed concern that the bill would “harm medical research that helps both humans and great apes.” The legislation was reintroduced in the 111th Congress after failing to gain support in the previous Congress and has rapidly gained more than 100 co-sponsors. Passage of the legislation is considered a high priority by a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The joint letter of opposition emphasizes “that the research community is strongly committed to ensuring that the highest quality of humane care is maintained for all animals used in research, that animals are housed and maintained under conditions appropriate to their species and that research involves only the minimum number of animals required to obtain valid results.”

Unfortunately, if the Great Ape Protection Act is passed, it could halt a number of ongoing biomedical research studies, particularly on hepatitis C, for which chimpanzees are currently the only existing animal model. “Chimpanzees are a unique and invaluable resource for ethically conducted biomedical research, particularly translational research through which scientific discoveries are advanced into treatments and cures,” the letter continues. Chimpanzees serve as models in studies investigating malaria, human cytomegalovirus, rotavirus, norovirus, respiratory syncytial virus, prion diseases and monoclonal antibody development, among others. Under the existing research system, chimpanzees no longer used in research are not euthanized; rather, they are humanely maintained in retirement facilities until their natural deaths.

The Great Ape Protection Act has a broad definition of “invasive research,” including “any research that may cause death, bodily injury, pain, distress, fear, injury or trauma.” This includes testing of any drug or other substances, research that would involve restraining, tranquilizing or anesthetizing the animal, removal of the animal from its social group or taking tissue samples, including blood, outside of necessary veterinary care. FASEB is concerned that this broad definition could not only have a negative impact on biomedical research on human diseases but also research that is designed to benefit the great apes themselves, such as the development of an Ebola virus vaccine for wild chimps or the treatment of heart disease in captive gorillas. This also could limit relatively noninvasive work, such as genomic or cell culture studies, which require tissue collection.

In addition to the joint letter, FASEB has been working with its member societies and scientists to educate policymakers about the potential consequences for research under the bill, as well as raising awareness about the multiple legal and regulatory protections that exist for animals used in research, particularly nonhuman primates. The Great Ape Protection Act has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has not held hearings on the subject and is currently quite busy dealing with health-care reform legislation. A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Senate.

Carrie D. Wolinetz (cwolinetz@faseb.org) is director of scientific affairs and public relations for the Office of Public Affairs at FASEB.

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Having a Master's in biological science, a Bachelor's in cellular and molecular biology, almost a third Bachelor's (in philosohy), and a love for studying cognitive biases and principles of critical thinking, I know way more than the vast majority of the U.S. population about this type of issue. However, I am still unqualified to feel comfortable taking a position on this bill. For one thing, the bill does not permit "death" to great apes. Does the destruction of chimpanzee embryos or infants count as a death? Since we lack artificial wombs, I would think that the destruction of chimpanzee fetuses would be outlawed by the bill, because surgically-induced abortion invades the mother chimp. I am clearly in favor of using chimpanzee embryos, but obtaining chimpanzee gametes may be invasive. Concerning chimpanzee infants, I think self-awareness is a very relevant trait, and we are a very irrational species in many ways. There is feeling pain and feeling that ... [exceeds word limit]


I feel I am uniquely qualified to comment on your opposition since I have Hepatitis C. There are enough people infected with HCV to try any drugs you come up with.It amazes me that the scientific community still insists that they need to conduct this research since they are 98.7% genetically like humans. I recently learned that CWU chimpanzees have a concept of time,ie the chimps that use ASL know when the holiday of thanksgiving is coming by signing Bird meat day, when they watch movies of themselves they sign to their caregivers "that's me when I was a baby" when the matriarch Washoe died they signed "hurt" and crying.Do you not see that you all clearly illustrate Stanely Milgram's Obedience Experiment by insisting this is necessary?? There is no "humane" way to keep apes caged. Even the ones at CWU are in too small of a facility. Please reconsider your position. Thank you Karen Purdom




  • I don't understand must about science in generally and using chimpanzee in medical purpose especially. But I think that if chimpanzee is the only hope for cure the most deadly diseases such as HCV, ebola, some kinds of cancers, we should let the medical experts to do researches they need to find cures for those diseases. Those research will be done in a balance of ethicality, money, no invasive,...It looks like when you get sick and doctor need to deliberate the side effects of the medicine before giving you a prescription. And I wonder if the animal activist love chimpanzee, they must their parents, children, relatives more. What happen if their loved once get sick, and chimpanzee is the only hope for that cure. Will they regret because of supporting the GAPCSA?

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