After years of using chimpanzees for scientific research—shooting them into space, testing hepatitis vaccines on them, using them for HIV studies—man's closest relative could be nearing retirement, reports the Washington Post. The European Union banned using chimps for scientific research last year, and now the Institute of Medicine is debating ending the use of chimpanzees in the United States, one of the last countries in the world that still allows their use. “If you’re a scientist, a chimp is really a sort of last resort,” said one researcher.
In 2010, the number of biomedical chimp studies declined to 32, down from 53 in 2007, spurred in large part by drug companies ending their use. Many doctors prefer using other animals, including monkeys and genetically engineered mice, rather than chimps. Activist Jane Goodall spoke to the Institute of Medicine recently about the ethics of chimp research, calling it torture. “I’ve never worked with chimps, but just listening to Jane Goodall, I got a guilt trip," said one researcher.