Saturday, September 4, 2010

Save the Chimps

I haven't really been keeping up but it seems the LA Times remains one of the best mainstream papers for animal and nature subjects. Below are a few paragraphs from a long blog post about possible renewed experimentation on chimps.


John L. VandeBerg, director of the San Antonio primate center, says the chimpanzees are needed to test potential vaccines for diseases, such as hepatitis C and hepatitis B, because they are the only species other than humans that can become infected with those viruses.

"We only use chimpanzees when it's not possible to do critical experiments with any other species," VandeBerg said. The primates are well cared for, he said, and only about 100 are used in research at any time.

"They are not people, they are animals," he said. "I believe it's our ethical responsibility to do the research to alleviate the pain, suffering and deaths of millions of human beings."

VandeBerg concedes past abuses in chimpanzee experiments, but he says research now "involves procedures that are no different than those that are used every day in human clinical medicine. It generally involves drawing blood samples from a vein, just as we do with people; we've all had that done."


Leaving aside the reprehensible "They're animals, not people" spiel, I'm still mighty confused, Mr. VandeBerg. If all you're doing is drawing blood from a vein, and all humans have had that done, why exactly is it that you can't use human subjects? Are you conveniently leaving out the fact that you want to infect the chimps with a disease first? So why can't you use the humans who already have that disease for much more accurate results?

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