Considering the vast amount of species that are on earth today, the Pan Troglodyte, also known as the chimpanzee is the closest genetically known relative to the human. Probably because of this close relationship to the human race, chimpanzees have gone through many hardships as science has progressed in order to produce medicinal advances for humans. Examples of these sufferings include torture, abuse, emotional distress, and endangerment. In numerous instances, experiments done on chimpanzees did not follow the same results as in humans. As in any ethical evaluation, mistreatment of these primates should not be tolerated and must be halted entirely.
Looking into their historical treatment, chimpanzees were subjected into many dangerous procedures. Starting in the 1950’s such as in aeronautics research, they have been put under stressors such as “exposure to G-forces, loss of consciousness in decompression chambers, spinning in giant centrifuges, and use of shock as punishment while training” (Conlee and Boysen 121). In other places such New Guinea, existed a neurological disease in the Fore people known as kuru. This slowly developing virus was transmitted when the people ate the deceased. Wanting to understand the process and try to find a cure, Dr. Daniel Carleton Gadjusek took a sample of a dead boy’s brain tissue. At the laboratory, they conducted the experiment on a chimpanzee called George, “drilled a hole in his skull and injected a solution of pureed brain from the Fore boys directly into George’s cerebellum” (www.releasechimps.org).
While research on chimpanzees was still at a minimum, it was not until later in the 1980’s that their usage boomed. The major cause of this situation was when the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) hit the human population at the time It is well known that chimpanzees do not develop AIDS, there is only one pathogenic strain that takes up to ten years to develop to AIDS-like symptoms. Knowing this, scientists still conduct experiments on the poor primates. (Conlee and Boysen 121). Many other types of tests that they have gone through are Hepatitis C, malaria, and Crohn’s disease.
The amounts of torture that chimpanzees have gone through does not go unnoticed. Types of housing that were given to them included “cages required by USDA standards to be only five feet by five feet by seven feet, with twenty-five square feet of floor space. This can be compared to the interior of an elevator” (Conlee and Boysen 125). The lighting within the cage basically had no natural light at all, leaving them in the artificial light to dark cycle most of the time. As social primates, leaving chimpanzees in these conditions lead to many unnatural psychotic behaviors such as physical wounding, hair plucking, and rocking. In terms of behavior, chimpanzees have many similarities to humans. Aside from the need to be social, chimpanzees have very intimate mother-child bonds in the wild. In Austria, Matthew Pan, a chimpanzee passed a mirror self-recognition test,
demonstrated tool use and understanding, drawn pictures, and played with human caretakers” (Knight), all characteristics viable for personhood.
Born into a life of captivity, baby chimpanzees undergo many different types of physically and emotionally damaging procedures. Aside from being taken away from their mothers, scientists start testing on them right when they are born. Their existence on a daily basis is full of fear from confinement, boredom, and stress. Older chimpanzees suffer from different types of foreign vaccinations and organ transplants. Knockdowns as they are called, are procedures when scientists approach the primate and shoot him/her with a dart gun full of anesthetics. After doing so, ” they typically lose control of their bladder and bowels”(www.releasechimps.org). Psychologists showed that the long time suffering experienced by chimpanzees leads to lifelong trauma.
Solutions and cures to diseases are mostly the reasons why these animals are used in research. For the allotted amount of time that chimpanzees were used in research, there still hasn’t been a breakthrough remedy for the AIDS epidemic. Other instances such as Hepatitis C also have not shown to yield significant results because the pathway of the virus within the chimp is different than in humans. Sources have previously stated, “that chimpanzees are 98–99% genetically identical to humans — a figure that was initially derived 40 years ago” (www.releasechimps.org). These claims are deceptive considering the fact that
whenever all factors are considered, chimpanzees have a major gap in their total genetic structure in comparison to humans, “likely to be nearer to 95%, or even approaching 93%” (www.releasechimps.org).
Going into detail about the diversity of gene expressions between humans and chimpanzees, the excerpt from “Lessons from Chimpanzee-based Research on Human Disease: The Implications of Genetic Differences” by Jarrod Bailey explains:
“… for example, 19 genes linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases in humans were found to be expressed differently in chimpanzees. In the cerebral cortex, at least 169 genes are expressed differently — many of which are involved in neuroprotection and synaptic transport — and 916 genes are expressed at least two-fold differently in the cerebellum” (Bailey 527).
As shown above, the differences in genes do make a big difference of how an animal can be used in experimentation. Not only are these genetic differences found in the brain, but in the rest of the body as well. Other places include the liver, kidney, heart, and testes.
Other methods are being used in medical testing and experimenting instead of using chimpanzees. Those such as the EpiDerm system from MaTek have
an equivalent to human skin cells and can detect the “toxicity of a chemical applied to them” (Watts 183). Another technique is called microdosing, which involves human volunteers being given a drug dose too small to cause an unfavorable effect within the subject. This method has the “ability to detect a liquid compound even after one litre of it has dissolved in the entire oceans of the world” (Watts 183). Other systems include computer modeling, painless stem cell research, and virtual tissue.
After looking at the different ways and methods, talking about the cost of obtaining and using chimpanzees including the standards that have to be met while keeping them in captivity are far greater than they used to be. Many countries have changed their policies to discontinue use or have banned in using great apes for medical research altogether. Such countries have started from the years 1997 spanning until 2008 and include but are not limited to: Australia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Spain, and the United Kingdom (Altevogt 18).
As I have discussed, there are many ways in which the Pan troglodyte, more commonly known as the chimpanzee has suffered. Starting from about the 1950’s until the modern era, these great apes have gone through many cases of emotional distress, torture, and endangerment. Since their genetic makeup is so close to humans, there are still so many differences throughout the genes of so many organs within their bodies that those small alterations sway our path of
reaching true solutions with these primates. If I may humbly conclude, from the research stated in this paper the use of chimpanzees for medical research is not a benefit for humans and is a major disadvantage to the Pan troglodyte.