In the short documentary film The Real Planet of the Apes, Betsy Brotman, an American researcher who spent 30 years conducting tests on chimps, says, “The animal rights activists were right. Chimpanzees really shouldn’t be used in experiments. I really do feel this way.” (see 13:30 in video below) From 1974 – 2005, Ms. Brotman ran a research institute in Liberia that conducted experiments on more than 100 chimps.
In her interview, Ms. Brotman says, “There are certain instances where it would be very difficult to do the research without chimps unless you use humans.” She is referring to the development of a hepatitis B vaccine, which her colleague says could only be tested on chimps, as no other species is susceptible to the virus.
Since this research was conducted, science has advanced, eliminating any scientific rationale for using chimps. But Steve Wise, the founder of the Nonhuman Rights Project, isn’t taking any chances. In an effort to free all captive chimps, he is leading the legal battle to classify chimps as persons – instead of inanimate objects – on the grounds that they, like people, they desire things, act in an intentional manner to acquire those things, and have a sense of self. If Mr. Wise is successful, holding chimps captive in any setting will be illegal.
Here’s a short NY Times documentary about his quest to reclassify chimps as “persons” instead of “things.”
Today, sixty chimps, most of whom recovered from the diseases with which they were infected at the research center, live on “Monkey Island” near Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. The chimps live freely in a somewhat natural habitat, and The New York Blood Center pays for their care.