Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Feds pay for chimp research industry’s PR campaign

How much longer will the National Institutes of Health get away with it? Will Congress, or the White House, ever rein in this out-of-control agency?
The latest outrage can be seen in a funding proposal from Texas Biomedical Research Institute, aka Southwest National Primate Research Center, approved by the NIH. (See this editorial, NIH Intent on Cruel, Worthless Chimp Tests, by the Albuquerque Journal.) Not only did NIH agree to pay SNPRC $19 million to bring old and tired chimpanzees back into research, despite telling the public that they would not do that until they considered recommendations (not yet issued) from an advisory committee, but they are also paying for the chimp research industry’s public relations campaign!

Text from Southwestern's grant application lays out a PR program funded by taxpayers' dollars. NIH approved the proposal.
 As Marc Bekoff points out in a great blog post, Chimps in Research: Lies, lies, and more lies, deception at NIH is a regular occurrence. But as government budgets are being slashed, and worthwhile federal programs are being eliminated, it never occurred to me that NIH could be this cavalier with taxpayer funds.

How long will it go on? Misleading the public - lying - is unacceptable. Using scarce federal dollars for useless research, and destroying the final years of old chimpanzees in the process, is repulsive. Paying a bioinvasive research facility to conduct a PR campaign to try to slow the public’s growing disapproval of chimpanzee research is an outrageous abuse of NIH’s authority.
Since the Obama Administration is not reining in their agency, congressional leaders need to step in and stop:
·         NIH nonfeasance, particularly in the case of illegal breeding of federal chimps at New Iberia
·         NIH misfeasance, particularly in the case of using taxpayer money for the chimpanzee research industry’s PR campaign
·         NIH malfeasance, particularly in the case of misleading the public on their intentions to re-commit old chimpanzees to traumatic research
Anyone who respects science, and who thinks that the federal government’s scientific agencies should at least be held to a minimum standard of conduct, should consider these steps:
First, Congressional appropriators need to insert language into the omnibus appropriations bill to withhold funds that are supposed to go to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute in FY2012.
Second, Representative Darrell Issa needs to use his Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to investigate the rampant public contempt demonstrated by managers of the NIH chimpanzee research program.
Yes, legislators need to co-sponsor the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (HR 1513 and SB 810), but that’s an easy face-saver. How many years are we going to wait for a hearing on this bill?
Yes, the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to fix the double standard of protection for chimpanzees, but do we really think NIH will respect an endangered species designation for captive chimpanzees?
The real threat to the health and wellbeing of chimpanzees is the National Institutes of Health, and its cozy relationship with the chimpanzee research centers. The relationship is cozy because of the research industry’s many decades of sucking at the federal teat.
But don’t worry; we’ll soon get ads telling children that cutting up chimpanzees is just lovely. Thanks to your taxpayer dollars.

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