The heartbreaking plight of research chimps who have spent their entire 30-year lives in laboratories


Caged for life: A young chimp chews on a piece of cardboard as he stares through the bars of his cage

Chimpanzees are being kept in research centres their whole lives and deliberately infected with killer diseases, a process activists describe as 'torture'.
The plight of these laboratory apes has been highlighted by a new report, which goes inside the labs and talks to the scientists involved, set to air on NBC this week.
Researchers who work with the chimps at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in San Antonio say their suffering contributes to mankind's understanding of how to combat deadly illnesses such as hepatitis and Aids.

Experimentation: Lab chimps undergo repeated medical procedures by researchers hoping to conquer killer diseases

And they insist that the animals are not mistreated, but are kept in outdoor enclosures whose condition is similar to that of a sanctuary or a zoo.
But campaigner Jane Goodall told NBC that it was inherently cruel to lock up chimpanzees 'in a small space with no choice', saying: 'All invasive research is torture.'

Born behind bars: A young chimp knows no other life but being in a lab

She particularly drew attention to the fact that at the Texas institute, chimps are kept in the research programme until they die, rather than being released to an animal sanctuary once they reach old age.
This means that apes like Rosie and Ken, both 30 years old, have already undergone more than 100 medical procedures, and will not leave the laboratory for the rest of their lives - which could last another 30 years.

Cruel: Anthropologist and primatologist Jane Goodall says the government should ban lab tests on chimps

John VandeBerg, director of the centre, argued that it provides its animals with a quality of life as good as they would get at a sanctuary.
And he claimed that even if they were no longer the subject of day-to-day research, the procedures they have already undergone could be crucial in future medical breakthroughs.
I think of the chimpanzees in the same way that I think of a library,' he said. 'There are many books in the library that will never be used this year or next year.
'Many of them might never be used again. But we don't know which ones will be needed tomorrow, next year or the year after.'
Chimpanzee research was central to the development of a vaccine against hepatitis B, and scientists hope that they could also be used in the battle against hepatitis C.

A question of freedom: Chimps are confined within the Texas Biomedical Research Institute their whole lives

Because so many animals at the Texas institute are infected with hepatitis and other diseases like HIV, the NBC camera crew which filmed them was not allowed to approach the cages and had to shoot from a distance.
The chimps live outside, in enclosures known as primadomes - and one scientist who works with them said that this should dispel 'the wrong opinion that these animals are in little bitty cages in a dark room with no windows'.

source: dailymail