In a sad update to what was a feel-good story earlier this year, 60 chimpanzees used for research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had their retirement put on hold because of the ongoing budget mess in Washington.
The NIH had announced in June of this year that it was going to reduce the number of chimps it uses in biomedical research, and as a result would be retiring a sizable number of them – several hundred in fact – to a chimp sanctuary in Louisiana:
“Americans have benefitted greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” said Dr. Collins. “Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use. After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”
Alas, Roll Call now reports, the chimps are yet the latest federal workers to get the short end of the banana (okay, perhaps a banana has none) as a result of the budget mess in Washington.
NIH had hinted at the problem in June, but at the time it wasn’t known that the Republicans were going to shut down the government, and that Congress would yet again fail to pass the necessary appropriations bills. Here’s what NIH said at the time it was announcing the retirement decision:
Some technical changes in NIH’s legal authority are needed to retire additional chimpanzees to the Federal Sanctuary System. NIH will continue working with Congress to remedy a provision that currently limits the amount of financial resources NIH may put toward retiring chimpanzees and caring for them in the Federal Sanctuary System.
Being technical changes, they could easily be slipped into the appropriations bill funding the NIH. Unless there isn’t such a bill, which there isn’t, then these kind of changes never get done, and people, and animals, suffer as a result.
And even sadder, it’s an easy fix. They don’t even need any money in order to retire most of the chimps they want to retire.
ABC reports that the problem is actually even worse than just blocking the chimps’ retirement. If this fix doesn’t happen soon, come mid- to end- November, Chimp Haven is going to run out of money, and won’t be able to pay to house the chimps it already has.
Hopefully Congress will get all of this fixed soon.
In addition to being a cute little story, this is one of thousands of examples of things the government actually does, and how shutting down the government, and not passing budgets, has real-life consequences.
For both people, and chimps.