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Monkeygate: Bewildered Florida Residents Discover Another Secret Monkey Breeding Facility

March 20, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Just four months after filing a lawsuit against Hendry County, Florida, for approving a monkey breeding facility without soliciting public comment, local residents discovered that County officials secretly approved another monkey breeding facility.

On Tuesday morning, they are holding a press conference at the Hendry County courthouse to express their outrage about the illegal lack of transparency as well as their grave concerns about the public safety and animal cruelty issues associated with the secret facilities. They will also ask what other secrets County officials are hiding from tax-paying residents.

Bioculture's monkey breeding facility in Hendry County, FL.

Hendry County residents discovered a second monkey facility secretly approved by local officials.

Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained recently traveled from New York to Florida to speak to residents who say they are determined to prevent Hendry County from becoming the nation’s capital for the importation and breeding of lab monkeys.

The plaintiffs in the case against Hendry, who are being represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), claim that County officials not only violated Florida’s Sunshine Law, which requires the County to hold a public hearing on matters that affect the community, but also broke zoning laws by illegally approving a wild monkey operation on land zoned for agricultural use. When ALDF filed the lawsuit, residents were not yet aware that the County had, behind closed doors, approved a second monkey breeding facility.

Angry residents gather at Hendry County municipal building to protest secret monkey breeding facilities

Residents gather at Hendry County administrative building to protest secret monkey breeding facilities

The facility that is the subject of the ALDF lawsuit, Primera Science Center, is being built by PreLabs, an Illinois-based company which reportedly intends to import 3,200 macaque monkeys from Mauritius, an island off the east coast of Africa.

Primera Science Center, a monkey breeding facility under construction in Hendry County, FL.

Primera Science Center, a monkey breeding facility under construction in Hendry County, FL.

The newly-discovered facility has already been built and is owned by the Mauritius-based company Bioculture. Bioculture is leasing land from Primate Products, a company that breeds monkeys and manufactures equipment for use in monkey labs. Area residents, who are determined to shut down this facility, do not know if Bioculture has already imported monkeys, and the company’s Sales & Marketing Director refused to answer any questions when TheirTurn reached him by phone. But the residents’ efforts are not without precedent. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico ruled that Bioculture’s already-constucted monkey breeding facility in Puerto Rico could not be opened because it was illegally built on land that was zoned for other purposes.

Hendry County is the lab monkey breeding capital of the United States

Residents are waging a battle against Hendry County officials to prevent their community from becoming the nation’s monkey breeding capital

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF), which has worked for years to prevent these facilities from being approved, believes that Air France, the only commercial airline that transports monkeys, will ship the animals from Mauritius for both PreLabs and Bioculture.

Actor James Cromwell protests against Air France

Actor James Cromwell participates in PETA protest against Air France at Los Angeles airport

Bioculture kidnaps and breeds macaques in Mauritius and sells them for lab experiments

Bioculture kidnaps and breeds macaques in Mauritius and sells them to monkey breeding facilities

Hendry County residents fear that the presence of thousands of exotic animals poses a safety hazard for the community. And their concerns are not unfounded. In early March, the CDC began conducting an investigation at the Tulane National Primate Research Center where monkeys died after being exposed to deadly bacteria that was mysteriously released from a separate, high security section of the lab.

Tulane National Primate Center (photo: Ellis Lucia)

Tulane National Primate Center (photo: Ellis Lucia)

According to Allison Young, an investigative reporter with USA Today, biosafety lapses have been reported all across the country, including at the Center for Disease Control, “They’ve had incidents involving Ebola, anthrax, and a very deadly strain of bird flu.”

Florida already has a population of hundreds of non-native wild macaque monkeys. Over the past 10 years, wildlife officials, who describe the animals as a “public health hazard,” have captured 700 of them. The majority of these monkeys tested positive for the herpes-B virus.

rhesus macacque monkey in Florida

Wild, non-native macaque monkey in Silver Springs, FL (photo: Graham McGeorge)

The ALDF’s lawsuit against Hendry County is ongoing. Area residents are now meeting to discuss how to handle the newly discovered Bioculture facility.

Your Turn

1. Local residents have organized a press conference on Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. in front of the Hendry County courthouse. Please spread the word so that local residents and advocates attend.

2. Please sign this form letter demanding that Air France stops transporting monkeys for lab experiments. And please boycott Air France until it does. All of the world’s other major commercial airlines refuse to transport monkeys to breeding facilities and laboratories.

Filed under: Experimentation
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Fate of Thousands of Monkeys in the Hands of Florida Judge

March 2, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

The duplicitous officials of Hendry County, Florida almost pulled it off — green lighting a 32 acre monkey breeding facility without informing the community or holding a public hearing, which is required by the state’s “Sunshine Law.”

But, in November, 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) stepped in and filed a lawsuit after learning about Hendry’s underhanded and illegal maneuver. The plaintiffs, Hendry County residents, argue that they were denied their legal right to publicly comment on a facility that, if built, would house thousands of exotic animals who could potentially escape and/or spread disease before being shipped to laboratories around the country.

primate, Frik, with a device on his head in a cage

Lab monkey (photo: PETA)

Hendry County has asked the court to dismiss ALDF’s case on the grounds that the Florida’s Sunshine Law does not mandate public hearings for the approval of “agricultural” facilities. But ALDF asserts that monkeys are wild, not agricultural, animals. On Thursday, a Hendry County judge will hear arguments from both sides at a court hearing that is open to the public. In the meantime, Jane Velez-Mitchell breaks down the issues in this JaneUnchained exclusive:

The hearing will take place just one week after PETA made the shocking announcement that the number of animals being used each year in federally-funded labs rose from approximately 75,000 in 1997 to to 129,000 in 2012.

Your Turn

If you live in Florida, please consider attending a rally that will held in conjunction with the hearing. Jane Velez-Mitchell will be there to report on the hearing and the rally.

For more details about the lawsuit, please see Lawsuit Claims Florida County Kept Monkey Breeding Facility a Secret.

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ALDF Reveals Carriage Driver “Hit & Runs” and Other Unreported Crashes

October 29, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

NYC carriage drivers have committed more than a dozen “hit & runs” over the past five years, according to allegations in police records that the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) obtained by court order from the City of New York. Jane Velez-Mitchell speaks to Chris Green, Legislative Director of ALDF, about the news:

One of 14 "hit & run" complaints filed with NYPD

One of 14 “hit & run” complaints filed with NYPD

At a NYCLASS press conference at City Hall announcing the reported “hit & runs,” ALDF’s Legislative Director Chris Green said that the group also discovered “several alarming incidents” that had not been publicly reported. In one instance, a child was rushed to the hospital after falling out of a carriage and being run over by a wheel. The police report stated that the victim “suffered injuries to stomach, chest and head.”

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces "hit & runs"

Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) announces “hit & runs” at NYC press conference

In another incident, a carriage driver “was thrown to the ground” and found by police “laying in the street, not moving.” In the photo below, a  driver was ejected from carriage and hospitalized in a coma when his horse spooked and collided with a station wagon. Unlike many other accidents, this one was reported because witnesses took photos and informed the press and local advocacy groups.

Dead carriage horse

Crash in midtown shows danger of mixing horses and cars (photo: Catherine Nance)

With the help of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages and the local office of Friends of Animals, the ALDF filed a successful lawsuit against the City of New York to release the “hit & run” and other records, which show that “children, cyclists, pedestrians, carriage drivers passengers and NYPD officers have been physically injured by accidents involving New York’s horse carriages.”

Tensions ran high at the press conference, as members of the opposition, including reporters who favor the industry, asked hostile questions of the speakers, including NYC Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who spoke in favor of removing carriages from the streets.

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

NYC Council Member Tweets Support of Horse-drawn Carriage Ban

The effort to ban horse-drawn carriages has been an uphill battle, in part because the NY Times, NY Post and Daily News have published editorials in support of the trade. Nonetheless, local and national animal rights groups continue to advocate relentlessly on behalf of the horses. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who agrees that carriages do not belong on NYC streets, has stated on multiple occasions that he intends to “end carriage rides” in NYC.

Your Turn

If you live in NYC, ask your Council Member to support the Mayor’s plan to end carriage rides in NYC

Sign the two petitions to ban horse-drawn carriages: Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn CarriagesNYCLASS

To keep apprised of developments, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages by sending an email to

Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS: The Truth Behind the Tradition that exposes the truth behind the tradition of NYC’s infamous horse-drawn carriage trade:

Filed under: Entertainment, Investigations
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