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Originally published Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 5:15 PM

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Deficit hawk swoops to save chimps from U.S. research

The "Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act" would prohibit "invasive research" on chimpanzees and retire the approximately 500 government-owned chimps in labs to private sanctuaries within three years.

WASHINGTON — Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, a noted budget hawk, introduced a novel way to take a tiny chunk out of the federal deficit Wednesday: Pinch pennies by preserving primates.

Bartlett, R-Md., joined with the Humane Society of the United States and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to stump for a bill — the "Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act" — to prohibit "invasive research" on chimpanzees. The bill also would retire the approximately 500 government-owned chimps in labs to private sanctuaries within three years.

Bartlett, who has a doctorate in human physiology, said at a news conference that science has changed, and it is time to end chimp research. "There's just no valid argument to continue to keep these great apes as they're now being kept," Bartlett said.

Michael Markarian, the Humane Society's executive vice president of external affairs, said 80 to 90 percent of the chimps in U.S. labs are not part of active research, but are being warehoused at taxpayer expense. Rules adopted in 1997 say "surplus" chimps may not be euthanized.

Markarian's organization estimates the bill could save $25 million to $30 million per year.

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology opposed the bill last year, saying it would "harm medical research that helps both humans and great apes." The group noted that chimps are used as research models for a variety of diseases, including hepatitis C, malaria and rotavirus.

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