APA advocacy training and congressional visits highlight research with chimpanzees

APA’s Committee on Animal Research and Ethics visit their members of Congress

On Oct. 2, members of APA’s Committee on Animal Research and Ethics (CARE) along with CARE Early Career Fellows made 14 visits to Capitol Hill offices. The scientists encouraged their members’ offices to avoid the looming across-the-board cuts that will happen on Jan. 2 if Congress does not override them, and to oppose the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (GAPCSA) when it is reintroduced in the next session of Congress. On Sunday, Oct. 1, members of APA’s Science Government Relations Office conducted an advocacy training and prepped the committee for their meetings the following day.

During their visits with congressional staff, CARE members explained that unless it is overridden, sequestration—the enforcement mechanism adopted to ensure that Congress continue to make progress on deficit reduction—will cut over $2.5 billion next year from the National Institutes of Health and $586 million from the National Science Foundation, reflecting an 8.2 percent cut to research. All of these numbers were published by the Office of Management and Budget in its recent report (PDF, 992KB) on how the sequester would affect federal budgets. Members of Congress are currently home campaigning but will return during a ‘lame duck’ session on Nov. 13  to consider proposals to reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion over the next nine years in order to avoid the sequester. This schedule leaves little time to solve an issue that eluded compromise during the regular legislative session.

CARE members also explained APA’s concerns about the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act, S. 810 (PDF, 180KB), a bill that has been introduced each session of Congress since 2008, but that never progressed through a committee until this year. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works reported the bill in July. The bill would ban almost all research and funding for research with great apes in the U.S. and would retire current research apes to sanctuaries. CARE members explained that the bill’s broad definition of ‘invasive’ research would prohibit measures including blood draws and anesthesia that are necessary for studies with chimps on cognition and language processing that may contribute to knowledge on Alzheimer’s and autism. The Institute of Medicine recently released a report calling for a reduction of research with chimpanzees, but the report does not recommend prohibiting behavioral research.

In Dec. 2011, the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on the Use of Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research released a report supporting a reduction in the use of chimpanzees in research, but the committee did not support an overall ban on research with chimpanzees. Shortly after the report was released, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of The National Institutes of Health (NIH), released a statement that NIH would accept the recommendations of the IOM committee. An NIH working group has been established to advise on implementing the IOM recommendations and to consider the size and placement of the active and inactive populations of the NIH-owned or –supported chimpanzees. NIH will not award any new funding for research with chimpanzees until processes for implementing the IOM recommendations are in place.