Chimpanzees as Biomedical Research Subjects

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In her book, anthropologist Margaret Power discusses the social organization of humans and chimpanzees. She states that the emotions that are considered innate to humans are seen both across cultures and across species. Anthropologists, Christophe Boesch and Michael Tomasello discuss chimpanzee and human cultures in their article as well. They contend that human and chimpanzee cultures, do in fact share many similarities, indicating that the evolutionary roots of human culture could come from our ape relatives. These studies, amongst many others have helped to prove how similar these animals are to humans, not only genetically, but also socially and psychologically. Why then, is it considered okay for these animals to be kept in the often cruel conditions of scientific laboratories?

Scientists have been using chimps as psychological and biomedical research subjects since the 1920’s. According to Roger Fouts, who discusses his work with chimpanzees in his book, Next of Kin: My Conversations with Chimpanzeessome scientists justify the use of chimpanzees by saying that they are “physiologically, just like us” but “psychologically, they’re not like us,” which he, along with anthropologists, proves is untrue.

Today, the United States is the only western nation that still uses chimpanzees in testing. It has been established that these animals are incredibly social and emotional creatures, yet they are still tested on while there are many alternatives  that do not require testing on animals. Social scientists should further study the culture and social structures of chimpanzees and explore their similarities to humans in order to help promote the prevention of the often-cruel biomedical testing on these creatures.

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