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Editorial: Give N.M.’s Chimps Reprieve in New Year

The National Institutes of Health gave 110 chimpanzees in Louisiana the ultimate holiday gift last week: sanctuary from needless suffering. Here’s to a new year that brings the same to the 169 ailing and aging chimps housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility.

The NIH decision comes around a year after N.M. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin requested an Institute of Medicine committee determine the scientific validity of using chimpanzees in biomedical research.

The United States and the tiny African country of Gabon are the only places on the globe that have not outlawed such research. The IOM committee concluded “most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”And so NIH officially retired the Louisiana chimps from the hurtful, frightening, invasive research that over decades has yielded nothing of scientific value because chimps are too different from humans on a cellular level.

New Mexico’s chimps — slated for a return to testing at a lab in Texas — have made the same sacrifice and have earned the same fate. Laura Bonar, program manager for Animal Protection of New Mexico, says reasons sanctuary in Alamogordo is the best option include:

♦ More than $6 million will be saved because sanctuary costs less than lab testing.

♦ Scientific principles will be honored because researchers will finally respect decades of findings rather than continuing to rely on fruitless methods to find treatments and cures.

♦ Morals and ethics will be restored because sentient beings will no longer be subjected to pain for no gain.

Thanks to the hard work of senators, scientists, advocates and the public, NIH has given 110 chimps in Louisiana a safe haven for the holidays and the rest of their lives. New Mexico’s chimps deserve no less.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.