Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History
Alternatives to Chimp Testing

In 1923, Psychobiologist Robert Yerkes purchased two young chimps from a zoo for his own behavioral studies. These two chimps, named Chim and Panzee, would be the first of thousands to be used for the sake of scientific research in the United States. And while internationally, the use of chimps in research has declined over the last decade, in the US, chimps continue to be used in biomedical research. According to the Humane Society of the US, approximately 1300 chimpanzees live in 11 laboratories around the US-making the US chimp population the largest collective chimpanzee colony for biomedical research in the world.

It is a harsh irony that what makes chimps so like humans, makes them such sought-after research subjects. Sharing so much of our biological makeup (99% of DNA, in fact), chimps have been used in the study of infectious diseases, gene therapy, vaccine development, reproduction, language, behavior, even anatomy.

Though they can catch or be infected by nearly all known human infectious diseases, Hepatitis research remains the largest area of chimpanzee use in the US. Nearly one third of chimp research dollars in 2003 and 2004 went to Hepatitis studies. The research has virtually eradicated Hepatitis B and C infections acquired through blood transfusions, though critics of chimp research say the first Hepatitis B vaccine was made from the blood of infected humans.

Introduction What are the alternatives for medical research? Slideshow Interview with Gloria Grow, founder Fauna Sanctuary Caring for Captive Chimps Q and A with the filmmaker Video Links and books Download Wallpaper For Educators In the 1980s, during the height of the HIV and AIDS outbreak, chimps were aggressively bred as subjects for studies of the disease. But this breeding campaign would soon result in thousands of surplus chimps when they were found to be poor models – never developing full-blown AIDS.

Critics of chimp research argue that the case of HIV is not an isolated case of scientific indiscretion. Even in the case of Hepatitis, chimps respond differently from humans. Chimps infected with Hepatitis B will not become sick while humans exhibit traditional symptoms of liver disease. And chimps infected with Hepatitis C will not develop cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, though humans will. And in fact, with regard to drug development, 70% of drugs that have tested safe in nonhuman primates are known to be harmful to the human fetus.

Fortunately, science presents some possible solutions. In July of 2005, Hepatitis C researchers reported a breakthrough in the technology to grow the virus entirely in cell culture. And the vaccine for this disease is now made from bacterial culture.

Using human volunteers with a specific illness in clinical trials for new drugs is, say animal research critics, a more accurate and humane alternative to testing drugs in animals like chimps. Today, a great deal of Hepatitis research is successfully carried out through observation and clinical trials on humans with the disease. The perceived risks of participating in trails is getting smaller. In one form of human clinical trial, called micro dosing, human volunteers are given minute doses of an experimental drug too small to even have negative effects on the body. The physiological effects of the drug are then extrapolated using high tech laboratory equipment like a mass spectrometer. This method can be very effective, and was used during clinical trials for drugs to treat AIDS and HIV.

Unfortunately, human studies are expensive to undertake and are limited by a shortage of human volunteers. While it may be some time before they replace testing in animals such as chimps, they can still provide valuable clues as to how different classes of substances elicit their effects, and thus reduce the need for animal testing. They can also provide a much-needed framework for the development of alternatives based on human or animal tissue and cell systems.

In in-vitro testing on human cell cultures and tissues has become an emerging alternative. Conducted on living cells in containers such as a test tube or Petri dish, the method tests the toxicity of substances, essentially “in bulk,” meaning that large numbers of compounds can be screened rapidly and simultaneously in numerous cell lines, rather than in one individual animal. The method is not only much faster than animal tests, it is also more accurate since human cell lines are used. In-vitro studies on human cells and tissues have made possible the investigation of the immune-stimulating effects of potential vaccines and the analysis of HIV transmission.

New research tools and equipment can also provide alternatives to testing in animals such as chimps. By providing scientists with a clearer and more precise understanding of the physiology of disease(s), scientists can monitor actual patients of the disease they are studying at the cellular level. Techniques such as paper chromatography, radioimmunoassay, genetic engineering polymerase chain reaction, and positron emission tomography have all advanced our understanding of biomedical knowledge. Positive emission tomography, for example, can be used to safely and noninvasively examine the activated lymph nodes and spleens of patients given vaccines or to monitor viral infections in a temporal and spatial manner.

Of course, the genomic revolution has equipped scientists with unparalleled tools for engineering “personalized medicine.” Knowing the correlations between human disease and specific genes could allow doctors to prescribe the right drug at the right dose for the right person, based on unique variations in their DNA- not on the DNA of a chimp, or even a mouse.

While some of these techniques are years away, others are already here and in place. But as more viable humane options are uncovered, perhaps testing our drugs on chimps will seem less necessary and less ethical. And we can finally release chimps from their role as research subjects in our society.


  • Kelly H.

    You people are so wrong and cruel!!!! I may be a kid that thinks animal testing is wrong, but these facts and pics. are true, and they disgust me. No one cares about you so do the tests on yourselves!

  • JILL


  • deej

    Who gives us the right to do any experiments on any animals…are they really beneath us. you don’t see unnatural stuff done by animals to others. I agree with Kelly & I really would like us humans to look into the statement that Jill had.

  • Mark Danga

    Yes the animals are beneath us. PBS has a left wing agenda, but nobody with a brain is buying.

    Maybe we should test on this idiot filmmaker Ms. Allison Argo who made this propaganda.

  • hi

    This is so cruel. You people should be ashamed of yourselves. The animals you test have feelings too. They might not be able to talk, but they do not need to be abused like this.

  • echo

    how dare you. you people are sick animals.these chimps are said to be our closest relatives.I know im only 12 but i’m going to do all in my willpower to stop this cruel thing

  • Kaitlyn Sawyer

    i think that chimpanzees need to be treated with more respect because they are you used pretty much like human dummies and im sick and tired of it they need to be treated well like us



  • Alicia

    Chimpanzees should never be treated this way and the people who do it should feel very bad for harming this beautiful animals!!!!!

    Your friend,
    Alicia Simpson Of Batesvill Ar.

  • Wanda

    I agree with all the comments, please write or email you state representatives and demand they stop using chimpanzees in research…..
    Project R&R has petitions and enormous info that will help you help the Chimpanzees….
    It does not matter if you are are young or old you can help stop this……

  • KK


  • superman

    this is gross and stuped they need to stop!!!!!

  • hailey

    so bad soosooo bad i feel really bad for these animals i dont get y they have to suffer so much.

  • Bethany

    This is not right. I feel very bad for them.

  • Bethany

    Wow! That’s a great idea and that sounds alot like my school!

  • Hailey

    well duh u go to my school so lets think of more ways to save these animals ok

  • Bethany

    You don’t go to my school!

  • Hailey

    well then be like i dont wat to sit here and argue with u because i want to find out how to save these chimps

  • Bethany


  • Hailey

    i no right so lets get to thinking ok

  • hailey

    lol haha hehe tehe

  • Bethany

    maybe we could have a car wash!

  • Hailey

    oh ya that sounds like sooooooooooooooooooo much FUNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! call me up then well do it ok lol lets save the chimps

  • Bethany

    May 4

  • Hailey

    ok sounds great c u then

  • Bethany


  • hailey


  • Bethany


  • hailey


  • Bethany

    nooooooooooo kiki is here

  • Bethany

    kiki is anoying

  • hailey

    whats up y friends o heyy kiki ur on here now thats so cool :)

  • Bethany

    no more animal testing

  • hailey


  • hailey


  • Bethany

    hey have we saved the chimps yet?



  • Bethany

    hey did we save the chimps yet



  • Peace

    Really?? You people need to think about what you are sayin, just because people do bad things doesn’t mean they wshould suffer the same cruel fate as the animals that are being tested on. In-vitro is probably a very good way to end animal testing, if the had enough funding, then animal testing would be reduced, and maybe in the future ended.

  • emma

    okay i have taken full summer classes on this and animal testing is absolutley morally wrong! CHIMPS ARE 1 paticle of DNA away from being humans. they can use tools and make their own words. they could even talk if it wasnt for a difference in shape of their larnex. Jane goodalls reasearched prooved that chimps are the closest thing to humans on this olanet and people still think its okeay to kill them and give them horrible desiese what because they cant talk?

  • beth

    thats just so mean i cant even think about what those chimps are going through because it’s so horrible and for your own personal studies thats just being a jerk to all animals!!!!!!!!

  • Erised

    Here’s another idea: we stop buying the products that have been developed using animal testing.

  • Samantha

    Yes, stop purchasing products that support abuse of animals, and stop purchasing products that contain PALM OIL. If you buy something made with PALM OIL you are directly contributing to the murder of orangutans. This means most candies, and even girl scout cookies! Check your cosmetics, shampoos, and household cleaners, this stuff is everywhere!

  • StopUnnecessaryAbuse

    I’m glad people under 15 are here to support animals, but not understanding what exactly you’re supporting is the same as NOT SUPPORTING in the long run. Using words like “Stupid” and “Gross” are very immature and ignorant attitudes towards something so serious as thousands UPON thousands of animals (including these intelligent, harmless chimps) being treated inhumanely.

    It is clear that animals are below us and as POWERFUL humans, we have the option to exploit them however we wish for money/opportunities and many people do that everyday for a living. But WE DON’T HAVE TO, because humans have an unwritten responsibility to be compassionate. Even though certain people may lack this or don’t have enough information, keeping being compassionate to the best of your ability.

    Everybody, please educate yourselves to WHY ANIMAL CRUELTY happens in the first place in a calm, unbiased, and open mind manner. This means not being angry at yourself or other people, learn and share factual information and this involves challenging the things you know for the SAKE OF SUPPORTING ANTI-ANIMAL CRUELTY.

    Go Humanity!!

  • Anthony

    I could not care if I died from cancer or a virus, people die every day and always have, that’s life, torturing animals is immoral and unethical since they are helpless, to say we are trying to help people by torturing animals I think is a lie, it comes down to greed again and again, can I develop a medication or vacine that I can sell? Leave the animals alone, accept your fate and try to make your money some other way

  • Christycat

    I saw this documentary the other day and it left me in tears! With all our modern technology can’t we come up with some better way to test products and treatments?

  • Sara

    Maybe this is a dumb question but what exactly makes animals “below us”? If humans are so smart why are we still testing on any animals at all? There seems to be enough of an argument for this to have stopped years ago, yet humans are still doing the same thing. I agree with you Anthony that it comes down to greed. Yes, I want there to be cures for cancer and other diseases but I find it disturbing to think that if I did have one of these terrible diseases that it’s ok for me to saved by these medications that were tested on animals first and were basically tortured by. Then to think that this was all done because people somehow BELIEVE that these animals are “BELOW US”. This is all so very frustrating.

  • aural(:

    i think that this animal cruelty should be stopped,
    animals deserve the same rights as we do. I have being doing an assignment on animal testing and am amazed what length some of the tests go to as to cruelty.

    i hope the maker of the website will read our comments and pass it on to the scientists

    Hobart, Australia

  • August

    Deliberately putting a disease into a mammal of any kind [chimps, humans, dogs, whatever] is terribly wrong.

    @Mark Danga: It is narrow-minded people like you who allow these things to happen. Just because animal testing has been going on for an unfortunately long time, that does not make it okay. Who says that animals are beneath us? Don’t you know that, as science has proven, animals might as well be kin to us? Yes, there might be some that are not as mentally advanced as humans, however, the animal kingdom is much like a family. Think of it this way: there’s always some one, some thing, that isn’t going to meet whatever standards you have. Say you have a younger sibling that isn’t as “capable” as you- would you allow them to be subjected to medical testing? Hopefully, your answer is no.

  • kema

    i hate this humans trying to kill chimpanzee

  • NONE oF yA BuISsNeSs

    HEY YA WATS UP ….. ANYWAYZ I AGREE WITH DA FIRST PPL THEY NEED 2 STOPPPPP ANIMAL CRUELTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! NOWWWWW!!!!!!!!! IT AINT FaiR 2 da animalz they didnt do nothin 2 u so y do to them …… u be trippin if u killed 1 of them so back off or ill call da cops u hear!!!!! :P


    i agree animal abuse is wrong and should be dealt with but to call these animals “harmless little creatures” is dumb and ignorant. These are animals and they can kill. look at what happened to this lady on Oprah’s show. she has an artifical mouth now because she underestimated animals! or look at the orca whales at Seaworld
    THESE ARE ANIMALS. they deserve respect and dignity. but sitting here yelling online is NOT going to save their lives. I did research and am now donating and writing to my state’s representatives about this. i hope you do too. DO SOMETHING. look at all the bad things that man did to the world. aka the Holocaust, 911, D-Day, World War II , etc. we can make a difference we just need to SPEAK UP!!!!

  • stlunatic

    ya i agree with @RESPECTMEIMAWOMAN these animals need love an respect but they cnt be underestimated…we just take em 4 granted an ther should be consequences…did ya guys kno that people in Africa will hook dogs up with fishing rods and feed them to sharks lik bait?????? and that the meat you eat come from mills where they torture the animals..i saw a im a vegetarian…you can look it up but i wouldnt cus i cried..sooo sad and should be illegal..if ya dont wanna b vegetarian look at organic local meat products that are approved :) save animals!!!!

  • angelica

    research labs should be in trouble for killing chimps and other animals!!!! >:( what have they done to you nothing exactley so why would you do that to poor inicent chimps

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  • Alessandra

    JILL, I completely agree with you! People on death row are going to die anyway, why not use them? It is much more humane to put those disgusting individuals to good use, instead of using innocent animals who are suffering for our benefit. It really disgusts me and saddens me and I can only hope that our country, only one of two who conducts this research, will soon find an alternative. Number one candidate: Michael Vick.

  • Cristina

    This is so disturbing. Testing on primates, or any sentient being, is unnecessary and unacceptable. I implore people to realize that taking a stand against animal testing isn’t just for “hippies, liberals, and bleeding-hearts!” Just try and set aside any knee-jerk partisan reaction and take an honest look at the way these animals are made to suffer at the hands of humans! I am a cancer survivor! I was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer in my teens and received life saving treatment that no doubt came to me via the suffering and death of many laboratory animals. I still object to animal testing! There is another, better way! Realize that our culture’s designations of what animals are acceptable to eat, wear, use a crash test dummies, or allow to sleep in our beds with us as family pets are completely arbitrary. Whether we are talking about a rat, a beagle, or a chimpanzee..ask yourself only, can they suffer? Do they deserve to suffer just for not having been born human? I do have empathy for humans suffering with disease, hoping a scientific breakthrough might bring them reprieve or relief – but this is not the way!

  • Jonathan

    Does anyone know the date this was published? I am trying to use it for speech and debate.

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  • amf9800

    this is soo mean!!! they should not do testing on animals! what did they ever do to us? if they are the ones that want to know if something is poisonous, then they should be the ones getting tested.

  • jaime44

    WHY!! this is not right! leave…. them…. ALONE!!!!!!! they are our family!!

  • amf9800

    i agree with jaime44… SO TRUE!!!!!!!

  • JAIME44

    thanx amf9800

  • Jordan

    i think chimps should be treated as we treat other humans!
    SAVE THE CHIMPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Verdun Legal

    This is really sad. Support Project R&R!! We do not have any right to do experiments on animals!!!

  • mable

    i think that this is terrible and that this MUST stop. if the midicines that are being tested on the animals for humans anyways, then shouldn’t it be tested on humans? yes, its true that the chimps are over 90% of the same DNA as us and thats why they use the chimps to test on, but that means that they can feel the same (or close to the same) pain as we can! this is pathetic and its not fair to the chimps. this must end……

  • Joseph Ting

    There have been healthy human studies on infectious diseases-so there appear to be no ethical constraints..

    It would still have been personally apparent to Kuvin at the time that prisoners considering participation in research involving deliberate inoculation with malaria carrying mosquitoes (Medical experiments and volunteers, Oct 10th 2010, Stanford Kuvin, New York Times) are a captive, vulnerable population that cannot conduct negotiations on an equitable basis or at complete free will, could perceive themselves to be at considerable risk of punitive measures in refusing to be enrolled, and that the “rewards” of improved parole and lifelong medical care comprise undue coercion. Offering improved parole conditions in exchange for “volunteering” may well undermine due judicial process, comprising a bargaining tool for lighter jail sentences. Although Kuvin’s research resulted in better malaria tests, it remains ethically debatable whether the end results justified the means, then and now. Like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, I suspect few, if any healthy volunteers, would have agreed to being exposed to bio-pathogens even if suitably remunerated, which may be why inmates were used instead.
    [In his attempt to explain the deliberate inoculation of Atlanta penitentiary inmates with malaria carrying mosquitoes to study immunological responses in the early 1960’s (Medical experiments and volunteers, Oct 10th 2010), Sanford Kuvin contends that “early parole for volunteering and lifetime medical treatment under the public health service after their discharge from prison” were one of three conditions that complied with NIH clinical research requirements at the time. This could well have been the case, with the cited research conducted prior to the inception of the Declaration of Helsinki (the first widely agreed upon code of conduct governing the ethical aspects of human research) in June 1964.

    However, it would arguably still have been personally apparent to Kuvin that prisoners considering participation in a purportedly voluntary study are a captive, vulnerable population that cannot conduct negotiations on an equitable basis or at complete free will, could perceive themselves to be at considerable risk of punitive measures in refusing to be enrolled, and that the "rewards” offered of improved parole and lifelong medical care comprise undue coercion. Of additional concern is improved parole conditions in exchange for “volunteering” may well have undermined due judicial process, effectively comprising a bargaining tool for shorter jail sentences. Although Kuvin’s research resulted in a reliable diagnostic test for malaria, it remains ethically debatable whether the end results justified the means, then and now. Like the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, I suspect few, if any healthy volunteers, would have agreed to being exposed to bio-pathogens even if suitably remunerated, which may be why inmates were used instead.]

  • Aimee B.

    I recently read that the U.S. is stopping experiments on chimps. That is the best news I have ever heard in my life. These animals do not deserve to be experimented on! They express pain, happiness, sorrow, anger just as you and I. You should take into consideration doing experiments on deathrow inmates, they have no feelings, emotions, sorrow, or soul. I am greatful for the vaccines that we have, but feel theres got to be a better way. Obviuosly so do others.

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