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APA Monitors Bill That Would Limit Research on Non-Human Primates

If passed, this bill would prohibit invasive research (regardless of source of funding) on any of the following species of non-human primates: chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, or gibbons (which in fact are not great apes).

By Sangeeta Panicker, PhD

On April 17, the Great Ape Protection Act (H.R. 5882) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), along with Reps. Tom Allen (D-ME), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), John Campbell (R-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), and David Reichert (R-WA). If passed, this bill would prohibit invasive research (regardless of source of funding) on any of the following species of non-human primates: chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos, orangutans, or gibbons (which in fact are not great apes). The bill would also prohibit breeding and transportation of these species for such research purposes.

As defined in the bill, “invasive research” refers to “any experimental research that may cause death, bodily injury, pain, distress, fear, injury, or trauma to a great ape, including—(A) the testing of any drug or intentional exposure to a substance that may be detrimental to the health of a great ape; (B) research that involves … restraining, tranquilizing, or anesthetizing a great ape; or (C) isolation, social deprivation, or other experimental physical manipulations that may be detrimental to the health or psychological well-being of a great ape”. It also includes “ … observation of natural or voluntary behavior of a great ape, (if) the research require(s) removal of the great ape from the social group or environment … or require(s) an anesthetic or sedation event to collect data or record observations”.

The bill, which is supported by the Humane Society of the United States and The New England Anti-Vivisection Society, has been referred to the House Committees on Energy and Commerce, Foreign Affairs, and Ways and Means. The APA Committee on Animal Research and Ethics is currently assessing the impact of this legislation on behavioral and psychological research with these species, if it were to be enacted as introduced. APA will monitor the status of the bill and advocate for legislation that does not impede ethically and scientifically sound research while ensuring that laboratory animals are afforded the highest levels of humane care and treatment.