Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gene Hackman Gets Behind 200 Retired Chimpanzees

By Sam Brand (
Tuesday, August 10, 2010 4:25 PM ET

The actor and novelist takes up the cause of hundreds of former victims of animal testing currently threatened with a return trip to the laboratory.

Gene Hackman (
doesn't want his neighbors to leave town. Funny, considering they're a bunch of old apes.

Two hundred chimpanzees housed at the Alamogordo Primate Facility in New Mexico ( )
are threatened with deportation to a Texas lab ( )

known for conducting animal experiments. The chimps, some more than 30 years old, have been through it before. They're all retired test subjects.

Hackman, who lives in Santa Fe, is doing his part to make sure they stay at a facility that has been the chimps' home for almost ten years. He sent a letter, obtained by Tonic, to Dr. Fancis S. Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health, ( )

which owns the Alamogordo Primate Facility.

"Scientists around the world have largely stopped experimenting on chimpanzees, in part because these animals just haven't proven to be good models for human health research," Hackman writes. "The United States is the last developed country on earth still making large-scale use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments."

Those experiments don't happen at Alamogordo, which has provided "for the long-term care and husbandry of chimpanzees [who] have been used in biomedical research" since 2001, according to the NIH. "No active, invasive research is conducted" at the facility, the second largest chimp laboratory facility in the US, according to Project R&R. ( )

That could change when a 10-year contract signed by private operator Charles River Labs lapses in several months.

Hackman's passion for the animals isn't an act — he retired from Hollywood five years ago.

"As you know, efforts to save the Alamogordo chimpanzee have drawn support from Gov. Bill Richardson, Sen. Tom Udall, and many other people around the state and across the country," he writes to Dr. Collins. "I join them in urging you to fulfill the National Institutes of Health's goal to 'exemplify and promote the highest level of scientific integrity, public accountability, and social responsibility in the conduct of science' by allowing these chimpanzees to live out their lives in the safety of a sanctuary."

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