Chimpanzee experiments

Knight A. The poor contribution of chimpanzee experiments to biomedical progress. J Appl Anim Welf Sci 2007; 10(4): 281-308.
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This study critically scrutinises the contribution of chimpanzee research towards human healthcare advancements, and received awards at the Conservation and Animal Welfare Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, 2006.

Biomedical research on captive chimpanzees incurs substantial nonhuman animal welfare, ethical, and financial costs that advocates claim result in substantial advancements in biomedical knowledge. However, demonstrating minimal contribution toward the advancement of biomedical knowledge generally, subsequent papers did not cite 49.5% (47/95), of 95 experiments randomly selected from a population of 749 published worldwide between 1995 and 2004. Only 14.7% (14/95) were cited by 27 papers that abstracts indicated described well-developed methods for combating human diseases. However, detailed examination of these medical papers revealed that in vitro studies, human clinical and epidemiological studies, molecular assays and methods, and genomic studies contributed most to their development. No chimpanzee study made an essential contribution, or, in most cases, a significant contribution of any kind, to the development of the medical method described. The approval of these experiments indicates a failure of the ethics committee system. The demonstrable lack of benefit of most chimpanzee experimentation and its profound animal welfare and bioethical costs indicate that a ban is warranted in those remaining countries — notably the United States — that continue to conduct it.


Knight A. Chimpanzee experiments: Questionable contributions to biomedical progress. Altern Anim Testing Experimentation 2008; 14 (Spl. Issue: Proc. 6th World Congress on Alternatives & Animal Use in the Life Sciences): 119-124.
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Knight A. The beginning of the end for chimpanzee experiments? Philos Ethics Humanit Med 2008; 3:16. (2 June).
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The advanced sensory, psychological and social abilities of chimpanzees confer upon them a profound ability to suffer when born into unnatural captive environments, or captured from the wild — as many older research chimpanzees once were — and when subsequently subjected to confinement, social disruption, and involuntary participation in potentially harmful biomedical research. Justifications for such research depend primarily on the important contributions advocates claim it has made toward medical advancements. However, a recent large-scale systematic review indicates that invasive chimpanzee experiments rarely provide benefits in excess of their profound animal welfare, bioethical and financial costs. The approval of large numbers of these experiments — particularly within the US — therefore indicates a failure of the ethics committee system. By 2008, legislative or policy bans or restrictions on invasive great ape experimentation existed in seven European countries, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In continuing to conduct such experiments on chimpanzees and other great apes, the US was almost completely isolated internationally. In 2007, however, the US National Institutes of Health National Center for Research Resources implemented a permanent funding moratorium on chimpanzee breeding, which is expected to result in a major decline in laboratory chimpanzee numbers over the next 30 years, as most are retired or die. Additionally, in 2008, The Great Ape Protection Act was introduced to Congress. The bill proposed to end invasive research and testing on an estimated 1,200 chimpanzees confined within US laboratories, and, for approximately 600 federally-owned, to ensure their permanent retirement to sanctuaries. These events have created an unprecedented opportunity for US legislators, researchers, and others, to consider a global ban on invasive chimpanzee research. Such a ban would not only uphold the best interests of chimpanzees, and other research fields presently deprived of funding, but would also increase the compliance of US animal researchers with internationally-accepted animal welfare and bioethical standards. It could even result in the first global moratorium on invasive research, for any non-human species, unless conducted in the best interests of the individual or species.

Knight A. Assessing the necessity of chimpanzee experimentation. ALTEX 2012; 29(1): 93-4.
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On December 15, 2011, the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) released Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity. The report concluded that most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is not warranted, but stopped short of recommending an outright ban. This article is my analysis of that position. I concluded that alternatives exist for the few current research fields for which the IOM committee felt chimpanzee research might possibly be necessary, and that, in any case, the adverse welfare impacts on chimpanzees subjected to invasive research — which appeared to receive little consideration — render such research unethical.