The freed chimps were part of a group of 38 animals which were locked in cages and injected with HIV and hepatitis for medical testing.

After a 14-year campaign, the group of primates was finally set free.

Their first excited steps into daylight were filmed and show the chimps hugging and gazing around them in apparent delight. The chimps ever appear to smile, although, as some have pointed out, the facial expression may also express fear.

Lab chimps see the sunshine
The chimps hug as they step outside into the sun.

The chimps were taken from their mothers as babies and brought to a lab owned by a pharmaceutical company in Austria. Researchers kept them in dark, isolated cages and infected them with HIV and hepatitis.

Chimps used for medical testing
The chimps are initially wary of their new surroundings

However, after a campaign by animal rights’ activists, the chimpanzees were freed in 1997. The process of readjusting them to the outside world has been painstaking, as the creatures were initially terrified of any environment other than their cages.

The hard work finally paid off and keeper Renate Foidl said: “The chimps are incredibly happy. This is amazing, I have been waiting for this moment for so long.”

The use of chimps for medical testing has dwindled steadily, as scientists find medically superior, more ethical techniques.

At the same time, growing evidence points to chimpanzees’ intelligence. Many researchers claim that chimps should be given the ethical consideration accorded to children who cannot speak for themselves.

“From their point of view, it’s like torture,” said primatologist Jane Goodall said in August. “They are in prison and have done nothing wrong.”

Watch the lab chimps take their first steps into the sun

On Youtube, comments range from the angry to the sceptical.

“I’m not sure “good mood” is the feeling I’m left with. While I am happy these fellows will live relatively freely, and rejoice at their ‘We finally made it!’ hug, I am shamed and saddened by their actions of my fellow humans, no matter how noble their goal might have been,” says Tanyableu.

However dfendr93 writes: “Lol… hug? The second one is just trying to screw the first one, who reacts to that.”

moveon881says: “The chimps aren’t smiling, that is actually their facial expression for fear, which I think is understandable.  But that hug…man it just hurts my heart. I wish someone would do a follow up story on them I hope they are released to a sancutary.”

Many are outraged that animal testing is still being carried out.

“This video is proof that animals are aware of what is happening to them. Animal testing needs to stop,” says jjaydeeify.

But some defend the practice: “Sad as this is animal testing is vital. I genuinely wish there was an alternative but an animal life does not equal a human life and as long as testing cures on animals it showing results it has to continue,” writes Youtube user DanotheSnitch.

What do you think about carrying out medical research on chimps?