Should Chimps be Bred?
In 2007 the American NIH supposedly finalized its moratorium on breeding captive chimpanzees. (The rule did not prohibit breeding; it ended NIH funding of breeding.) The decision was hailed by animal rights advocates, although some scientists argued the need for chimps for research on hepatitis C and autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and Crohn’s.
Then this fall it turned out that one major research facility, the New Iberia Research Center, has all this time been breeding chimps, including NIH-owned chimps. The Center says it met the letter of the law, using other funds. NIH says it had no idea, although the center provides several chimps to NIH annually for research on hepatitis C and other viral diseases.
So what should be done with all these chimps? Do we need them for research? (Honest question; as a microbiologist, I know that many of us are alive thanks to primate-based research, such as vaccine development.)
On the other hand, if chimp research is wrong:
Should the chimps all be “retired,” as one law says already? What should retirement look like?
Some argue that the research chimps should all have been sterilized. But would that be “fair” to the chimps? If they possess near-human society, is it fair to deprive them of the opportunity to raise families?