Kelsey's Policy

Kelsey Prosser

Law to Ban Medicine Testing on Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees are the most closely related animal to humans. Being 99 percent genetically identical to humans, chimpanzees have many characteristics in common with people including their intelligence and emotional complexities. This makes them prime subjects for research opportunities. In some cases, researching chimpanzees is the best way to understand the closest animal relatives that humans have, but the moral reasoning all depends on how the experiment is conducted. Scientists Roger Fouts and his wife Deborah Fouts fostered a young chimp named Washoe. They treated her as an orphan child and taught her sign language. Washoe was able to communicate with her human parents, and when she was first introduced to other chimps when she was five years old, she accepted the “different species” and soon learned to communicate with them (Fouts and Fouts 1993). Another example is Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees in the wilderness. She kept her distance at first, but eventually the chimps accepted her presence, and she was able to make new discoveries about chimps that had not been documented before through her research. A huge discovery that she made was that chimps actually make tools for aid in eating or other activities (Jane Goodall 2008). These two cases are examples of animal testing and research that did not cause any physical or emotional harm to the chimpanzees, and are therefore examples of acceptable animal experiments. Also, this research has established how complex the emotional lives of chimps are.

Next to positive examples of chimpanzee research, a common procedure done to test medicines before having them available to people involves first testing drugs or medicines on animals. One of the species of animals used for testing is chimpanzees because they are nearly 99 percent genetically identical to humans (Weiss 2005). The hope is that testing medicines on chimps will accurately show how drugs will react in humans because chimps and humans are so similar. However, testing medicines on chimpanzees is emotionally degrading to the chimps, and the experiments cause severe physical effects that often leads to death. The overall effect that testing has on chimpanzees outweighs the possible benefits that testing medicines on chimps may provide. Chimpanzees are capable of feeling pain, and they have lives and freedoms that humans cannot ignore (Taylor 1999).

Since mammals are capable of feeling pain and fear, testing medicines on mammals is often very harmful to the test subject. This is especially true of chimpanzees. For animal testing, chimpanzees are forced into solitary confinement and they suffer emotional stress that is deteriorating on their overall health and physical appearance (Cothran 2002). In the wild, chimpanzees are very social and live in family groups that can travel wide distances in the course of a few days. Chimpanzees that are experimented on however, generally live their entire lives alone and confined in small cages no larger than a small elevator without the comfortable atmosphere and large space that most zoos offer. Research has also shown that chimps that live alone can suffer from depression and become more aggressive which, in some documented cases, has lead to self-mutilation and physical harm (The Humane Society 2006). Since chimpanzees have emotions just like humans, and most people would agree that testing medicines on humans is morally incorrect, it should only seem appropriate that testing medicines on animals that are 99 percent genetically identical to humans, and which have similar emotions, would also be morally incorrect (Clark 1997).

Chimpanzees are also a threatened and endangered species that needs to be protected. In Africa, the only continent where chimpanzees live in the wild, the number of chimpanzees has steadily declined from around a million animals to now only around 250,000. This decline in the number of wild chimpanzees because of many factors, but on average, around 5,000 chimpanzees are killed each year due to poachers, and thousands more are illegally transported to other countries for food, entertainment, and experimentation (Velenza 1985). In the United States alone, there are over 1,300 chimps used in nine major laboratories across the country strictly for animal experimentation and research. With all things considered, a law is therefore necessary to prevent the testing of medicines on chimps. The only procedures that should be lawful are physical research with chimpanzees including attempts to communicate and understand them. If testing medicines is harmful and torturous to the chimps and may not even provide results relevant to human medicine, then the procedures should not be continued.

A law banning experimenting medicines on chimps is necessary. A law would prohibit any experiment on chimpanzees that would cause physical or emotional harm or discomfort by testing medicines, products, cosmetics, fertilizers, pesticides, or anything potentially harmful on the chimps. Any product that results in an illness or the death of a chimp will be banned. Even if the products are not predetermined to be harmful, the law will prohibit any testing that could potentially cause harm or emotional or physical stress. Overall, animal testing on chimpanzees is both morally and ethically wrong. Morally, people have an obligation to not do harm to others, and chimpanzees should go into the category of “others” being that they are 99 percent genetically similar to humans (Harnack 1996). Medical experiments on chimps falls into the category of harm because chimpanzees subjected to experiments suffer emotionally and physically from living in small, solitary cages.

The only experiments that the law would allow would concentrate on the understanding and communicable research of chimpanzees. This would include research opportunities that scientists Roger and Deborah Fouts took advantage of with Washoe, and Jane Goodall’s discoveries by watching wild chimpanzees and learning about their way of life. In both cases, none of the chimpanzees were harmed, and the results benefitted science and people’s understanding of the closely related species of chimps. Chimpanzees should not be taken out of the wild for research purposes though due to the fact that chimps are an endangered and threatened species (Clark 1997). Once the law is passed banning animal testing on chimps, all of the chimps currently in research facilities should be taken to zoos and cared for properly to keep them healthy. In order to maintain the health of the chimps, the minimum space requirements should at least be 20 cubic feet per every two chimpanzees so that the chimps can move around freely with a large atmosphere and plenty of space. In order for chimpanzees to remain healthy, they need to be social and able to actively move about their enclosure. They also need to have some type of higher structure such as trees so they are able to climb and explore the full space of their environment (Harnack 1996).

In order to enforce the law, inspections will be made by the USDA of the nine major research facilities, along with all other facilities in violation of the law, that are currently housing chimpanzees to make sure that testing on chimpanzees ceases due to the requirements set forth by the law stated in this policy. Any facility in violation of the law and not following the policy will be subject to disciplinary action. A first offense crime if convicted should be punishable by a minimum fine in the amount of $30,000 up to $60,000 per chimpanzee affected, or no less than 60 days but no more than 90 days in jail which will be determined by a judge. A second offense punishment should consist of a minimum fine of $60,000 up to $100,000 for each chimpanzee affected depending on the severity of the crime, and a minimum of 180 days and no more than 5 years in jail. The people responsible for the punishment will be the highest person in the facility or company unless evidence suggests otherwise. The number of people subjected to the punishment will be determined by a judge and the severity of the offense. If the problems persist, a third offense violation will be punishable of no less than $100,000 and up to $500,000 per chimpanzee affected depending on the situation, along with no less than 5 years in jail and up to 25 years (Lafollette, Shanks 1996). In order to fund the law and all of the requirements in it, there will be a voluntary contribution on federal income tax return forms that people can give money towards. This will also go to help zoos pay for and take care of chimpanzees recovered from unlawful facilities to bring their health back up and to maintain it (Orlans 1993).

Some opponents of this policy may argue that no matter what, humans take precedence over chimps, and that experiments on chimpanzees are necessary to test medicines and products for the health of humans. But even if this were true, the moral costs of experimentation on chimpanzees outweigh the benefits. Another counterargument deals with people who believe that since chimps are so similar to humans, they are the only means to testing products before they are used in humans to accurately represent how the products will affect humans. But this is untrue because chimpanzees do not always react to new products or medicines the same way humans do. One example is the HIV virus. Chimpanzees do not develop full-blown AIDS, so therefore experimenting on chimpanzees to find a potential cure for AIDS is not effective. Not only is animal testing harmful to chimps, but it is also unsafe for humans when the results are ineffective (Clark 1997). Since there is no way to tell when the results will be accurate in humans, then testing on chimpanzees is a redundant procedure. From a moral standpoint, using chimpanzees for experimentation that affects their physical and emotional health is wrong because it causes the chimpanzees to live their entire lives in small, solitary cages away from other chimps. In order to be healthy, chimpanzees need to be social and around other chimps, and they also need a wide area of space to more about and be able to explore. Chimpanzees are also endangered, so unnecessary extraction from the wild and placing the chimps in research facilities needs to be stopped. The only types of research experiments that are to be allowed involve communication and understanding studies done without physically or emotionally harming the chimps (Haugen 2007). Overall, in order to save the health and lives of both chimps and humans, there is a great need for a policy banning the testing and experimenting of medicines and other products on chimpanzees.

Works Cited

Clark, Stephen. (1997). Animals and their moral standing. London: New Fetter Lane.
Cothran, Helen, & Barbour, Scott (Eds.). (2002). Animal Experimentation: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

Fouts, Roger & Deborah, (1993). Chimpanzees’ use of sign language. Cavalieri, Paola, & Singer, Peter (Eds.), The Great Ape Project (pp. 28-41). New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Harnack, Andrew. (1996). Animal Rights: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

Haugen, David M. (2007). Animal Experimentation: Opposing viewpoints. San Diego: Greenhaven Press.

LaFollette, Hugh, & Shanks, Niall. (1996). Brute Science: Dilemmas of animal experimentation. London: New Fetter Lane.

Orlans, Barbara. (1993). In the Name of Science: Issues in responsible animal experimentation. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Taylor, Angus. (1999). Magpies, Monkeys, and Morals: What philosophers say about animal liberation. Ontario: Broadview Press.

The Humane Society of the United States. (2006, November). Frequently asked questions about chimpanzees in research. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from

The Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education, and Conservation. (2008, February). A profound effect on primatology. Retrieved February 23, 2008, from

Velenza, F.P., (1985). The clinical chemistry of chimpanzees: gamma glutamyl transfersae levels in hepatitis studies. J Med Primatol, 14, 305-315.

Weiss, Rick. (2005, September 1) Scientists complete genetic map of the chimpanzee, differences from human DNA pinpointed. The Washington Post, pp. A3.

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