When AIDS broke in the 80’s, the National Institute of Health (NIH), a U.S. government research group, began to breed chimpanzees to serve as subjects to monitor the disease’s course. AIDS however, did not develop in chimps carrying the HIV virus. This made them quite useless for AIDS research.
The breeding “program” however, caused a surplus of lab chimpanzees with a life expectancy not dissimilar to a humans- approximately 60-65 years.
So out of the 1700 or so chimpanzees serving indefinite lab sentences in the U.S., only about 600 are actually “necessary” for current research projects. Activists and many scientists want to see these creatures freed to sanctuaries where they can finally enjoy some peace and proper care.
That is- except for men like Dr. Frederick Coulston who speaks his mind as such, “How many chimps do you want? You can raise them like cattle. In ten years, you could have half a million.”* And “You aren’t going to let those chimps just (go) out there and suffer in a sanctuary? This is their home.” (*Source: NY Times, Feb. 4, 1997) Such a cold attitude leads us to one of the darker corners of laboratory life.