More than a decade ago, I helped craft legislation in Congress to establish a mechanism to provide a federal "retirement" program for chimpanzees no longer needed in biomedical research. We shepherded this bill through the legislative process; it was signed into law; and now, chimpanzees languishing in American research laboratories can have a peaceful home for the remainder of their natural lives.
The path of moving legislation such as this through Congress is torturous, with many considerations to be taken and amendments to be made along the way. One of the most vital decisions we had to make was this: When is an individual chimpanzee retirement-ready? There was no way to succeed if we suggested that a third party would make the determination. We had to leave it up to the individual researcher. When the protocol is complete and the work with that animal has concluded, retire the chimpanzee forever. And, researchers are doing this.
But, not all facilities and the people who run them have this sense of duty. I was shocked to learn recently from Born Free Foundation's programs manager for field conservation projects, Dr. Liz Greengrass, that the New York Blood Center (NYBC) has effectively abandoned 66 chimpanzees in Liberia - literally leaving them to starve to death.