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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Children: Cheaper than Chimps

It's not easy to direct a Primate Testing Laboratory these days. Never mind that it's almost impossible to come up with a new anti-viral vaccine (swine flu, anyone?) without primate testing, and that it wasn't until chimps were deliberately infected with it that the Hepatitis C virus could be isolated (before that the disease it caused was just referred to as "non-A, non-B Hepatitis"). And never mind that chimps are far more fecund in well-managed captivity then they are in the wild. There are entire organizations devoted to the promotion of "human rights" for chimpanzees, and they will not rest until every living chimp is released (never say that ideas don't have consequences). And as a result--without even having to join a union--laboratory chimps enjoy incredibly cushy employment benefits. Granted, without valid Social Security numbers, the chimps can't be paid in cash or equivalents--but their employment benefit packages are pretty impressive. Working mother chimps, for example, are now paid to breastfeed their babies for the first six months to a year (wow, what a maternity leave policy). From there, the chimps go to work as guinea pigs, getting injected with diseases that won't hurt them (they don't even get AIDS from the HI virus) so that they can be carefully studied in order to produce treatments for humans.

After 3 or 4 years in the lab, a chimp's life work is done. But alas, chimps live for at least 10 times that long. Time for early retirement! A laboratory chimp now moves to a tropical resort where it can live out its years being provided with free food and water. Well, first of all, a stop by the operating theatre where its ability to procreate is removed; we don't want any population explosions at those resorts now, do we? And this despite the fact that chimps are a Threatened Species in the wild.

Total cost over the lifetime of a laboratory chimp? Half a million dollars, or about $125,000 per year of services rendered. Those chimps are making more than their keepers! And if a chimp manages to escape wars, rebellions, and ecoterrorists, it may well live 50 years, at an average cost of $10,000 per year per chimp.

As someone very well acquainted with childraising, I can attest that children can be easily raised and educated from infancy through adulthood for a little over $2000 per year each. They get a bit more expensive after that, but--unlike chimps--by then they are earning their own way.

So, bring them on--children are way cheaper than chimps! Unless you send your children to public school in New Jersey--that alone adds $20,000 a head that somebody is having to pay for, year after year.

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