A bonobo chimpanzee in Belgium's Planckendael Zoo, 2011 (Photo: Getty)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. has announced that it will substantially cut government funding for chimpanzee research, based on recommendations from scientific experts.
It's good news for the chimps: the NIH announcement means many of the animals will get to leave the lab and spend the rest of their days in animal sanctuaries.
The U.S. is the last developed country in the world that conducts invasive research on chimpanzees, writes Kathleen Conlee, Vice President of Animal Research Issues for the Human Society on Take Part.
Back in 2008, an investigator with The Humane Society of the United States worked undercover at the New Iberia Research Centre, where nearly 6,000 monkey and more than 300 chimpanzees are kept for research, mainly conducted on behalf of cosmetic companies.
You can watch the video below, but be warned: there's some disturbing footage of the chimpanzees' treatment.
The undercover video revealed that the animals were living in deplorable conditions, in isolation from one another and under "severe psychological distress."
One chimpanzee, Sterling, was taken from his mother at birth and experimented on repeatedly. Sterling was subjected to hepatitis C infection, underwent hundreds of blood draws, countless liver biopsies and other distressing procedures. He suffered from depression and bouts of severe weight loss as a result.
The decision to convene an expert panel to look at the usefulness of chimpanzee research came after a 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine stated that chimpanzee research is "largely unnecessary."
The report concluded that technological advances have reduced the need for chimpanzee-based testing.
To get an idea of what the chimps may experience once they move to the sanctuary from the lab, check out this video of federally owned chimpanzees who were retired to the Chimp Haven Sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana earlier this year.
When they leave the lab, the animals discover a whole new world.
For some chimps who were captured in the wild, it may have been decades since they were free. And for those born in captivity, it will be their first time out of the lab environment.
The legal environment around using chimpanzees in research is changing: it is now against the law in the U.S. to breed chimpanzees in a lab for biomedical research purposes.
And with the new decision to cut government funding for chimp research, more animals may be freed.
Via Take Part