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Activists Disrupt Economic Development Conference on Behalf of Lab Monkeys

May 11, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Hendry County, Florida, a rural area virtually unknown outside of its own borders, is hardly a hotbed for animal-rights activism. Perhaps that is why Jessica Thomas, a nearby resident, surprised even herself when, during a conference of regional government and business leaders, she jumped onto the stage to display her #MonkeyGate t-shirt to protest County officials’ efforts to turn Hendry into the nation’s lab monkey breeding capital. Her spur of the moment decision led to several local news stories that project their message to a much wider audience.

After she was escorted off the stage, Ms. Thomas told the audience, “We’ve had enough of monkey experimentation and monkey abuse happening in Hendry County, and everyone needs to know about it.”

Jessica Thomas, who lives near one of the four  monkey breeding facilities, is most concerned about animal cruelty issues.

Activist Jessica Thomas, who lives near one of the four monkey breeding facilities, says, “We have to stand up against injustice.”

Hendry County is now home to two primate breeding facilities that house thousands of monkeys. Two more that would bring thousands of additional monkeys are under construction, and area residents are determined to shut them down.

A partially completed expansion on the land owned by Primate Products

Bioculture, a company that was expelled from Puerto Rico by its Supreme Court, is one of two new monkey breeding facilities under construction in Hendry County.

Hendry County monkey breeding capital

Hendry County is home to four facilities that breed monkeys for lab experiments. Two are fully operational; two are under construction.

In addition to animal cruelty, neighborhood activists have expressed grave concerns about the spread of disease from the monkeys to humans and other animals; groundwater contamination with toxic monkey waste; the effect of monkey breeding facilities on property values; and the impact of escaped monkeys on the local environment. The nearby Everglades are already under siege by non-native invasive species.

Hundreds of non-native wild macaque monkeys with herpes B virus live in Florida (photo: Graham McGeorge/ Barcroft Media)

Hundreds of non-native wild macaque monkeys with herpes B virus live in Florida (photo: Graham McGeorge/ Barcroft Media)

Dr. Madeleine Durant tells reporters that residents do not want their community to be the nation's lab monkey breeding capital.

Dr. Madeleine Doran tells reporters that residents do not want their community to be the nation’s lab monkey breeding capital.

“County officials, who have much to gain financially from these monkey breeders, thought they could sneak these companies into our community because most of us are too focused on making ends meet to put up resistance,” Jessica Thomas said after the disruption. “They didn’t think residents would rise up to protest their secrecy, not to mention the cruelty and public health issues associated with breeding thousands of monkeys in and near residential areas.”

A whistleblower told the media that Primate Products, a Hendry County monkey breeder that makes primate restraining devices, was illegally performing c-section abortions on pregnant monkeys in order to harvest and sell the fetal organs.

In March, a whistleblower said that Primate Products, a Hendry County monkey breeder that makes primate restraining devices, was illegally performing c-section abortions on pregnant monkeys in order to harvest and sell the fetal organs.

After the disruption, Ms. Thomas told reporters, “It was a spur of the moment decision to jump onto the stage. I saw all of these community leaders assembled in one place, and I realized that, if I don’t protest the people responsible for these injustices in this high profile setting, then how can we expect them to take our demands seriously? After all, they’ve refused to answer our questions for over a year.”

Jessica Thomas climbs onto the stage to disrupt Greg Gillman, the President of the Hendry County Economic Council who is largely responsible for bringing monkey breeding companies into the County.

Jessica Thomas disrupts Greg Gillman, the President of the Hendry County Economic Council who is largely responsible for bringing monkey breeding companies into the County.

Independent journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell of Jane UnChained, who traveled from New York to report on the press conference, asked Hendry Commissioner Karson Turner why the County didn’t hold public hearings before approving the monkey breeding facilities, as required by Florida’s Sunshine Law. In response, Mr. Turner, who has been an advocate for the facilities, said he would meet with the community. “That is welcome news to those who have been trying to have a dialog with the Commissioners for over a year,” said Velez-Mitchell.

Animal rights activists in Florida protest Primate Products

Animal rights activists in Florida protest Primate Products, one of four monkey breeding facilities in Hendry County.

In November 2014, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit against Hendry County or failing to hold a public hearing about the approval of Primera Science Center, one of the two new monkey breeding facility approved in secret by County commissioners. The lawsuit is ongoing.

Your Turn

Please share this “MonkeyGate” Facebook page with people you know in Central and South Florida: Put an End Hendry County Monkey Breeding Facilities.

Ask Hendry County’s five commissioners to stop the construction of the Bioculture and Primera Science Center monkey breeding facilities pending county and/or state investigations:,,,,

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Moving Mountains for Monkeys

March 11, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

As efforts to build new monkey labs and breeding facilities in the U.S. have increased during the past several months, activist groups have taken to the streets, the courtroom and the internet in an effort to block them. Tensions are running high. Following are just a few of the battles being waged by activists on behalf of the monkeys.

Officials in Hendry County, Florida, already home to two monkey breeding facilities, have approved the construction of two more without soliciting feedback from area residents, a move that violates the state’s Sunshine Law. Florida’s Sunshine Law requires municipalities to hold public hearings on projects that impact local communities. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a lawsuit against Hendry County on behalf of angry residents.

Monkey breeding facility

Monkey breeding facility (Photo: Alon Ron, Haaretz)

Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained recently traveled from New York to Florida to report on a court hearing on the case and the civil strife that accompanied it: “Watch as I try to get a comment from Hendry County’s lawyer, and see dozens of angry local residents swarm the county offices demanding answers!”

In November, The University of Washington decided to expand its primate research center to increase the number of monkeys it could accommodate. Activists with Campus Animal Rights Educators and No New Animal Lab have been fighting to stop the expansion, pointing to USDA citations, the deaths of several monkeys, including one from starvation, and evidence of a monkey who was euthanized after repeatedly harming himself.

Activists with No New Animal Lab drop a banner over a highway in Seatle

On March 8th, Activists with No New Animal Lab drop a banner over a highway in Seatle

Michael Budkie, President of the anti-vivisection group Stop Animal Exploitation NOW, says that the monkeys are highly stressed by captivity: “I can’t conceptualize the actual mental state of an animal that is so disturbed and mentally abnormal to literally be biting off pieces of his own fingers.”

lab monkey

Monkeys, who are highly social animals, are driven insane by lab experiments and intensive confinement

Since 1980, NIH researchers have used public funds to conduct maternal deprivation and isolation studies on infant monkeys. Video footage of the experiments is so disturbing that four members of Congress sent a letter to the NIH, which is based in Maryland, demanding an explanation. When the lead researcher, Stephen Suomi, made a presentation at the University of Michigan, activists disrupted his remarks four times to raise awareness of his barbaric experiments.

In a fascinating interview with Justin Goodman, PETA’s Director of Laboratory Investigations, Jane Velez-Mitchell shines a spotlight on Suomi’s studies and the deception that has enabled NIH researchers to spend 30 years and tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars on these experiments that have done nothing to improve human health.

Maternal Deprivation Study

NIH maternal deprivation study

Your Turn

The plight of animals in society is often ignored by the mainstream media. Given the enormity of the problem, the issues don’t receive the attention they deserve. That is what prompted Jane Velez-Mitchell to launch her own initiative to be the media for animals – JaneUnChained. But doing it on her own is unsustainable over the long term. Please see how you can help her be a permanent voice for the animals.

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Philanthropist Rescues 1,300 Monkeys from Imminent Torture

January 6, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Ady Gil, a Los Angeles-based philanthropist and animal rights activist, has spent $2 million to purchase 1,300 monkeys on the verge of being sold to laboratories around the world. The long-tailed macaques were the last of monkeys at Mazor Farms, a primate breeding facility that supplies monkeys for experiments. Several hundred of Mazor’s monkeys were snatched from the jungle in Mauritius, an island off the coast of Africa, and shipped in crates to Israel. The remainder were bred in captivity.

Journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell spoke to Mr. Gil about his historic purchase:

According to activists with Behind Closed Doors, who have been fighting for 20 years to shut down Mazor Farms, infant monkeys born at the facility are kidnapped from their mothers and held in separate enclosures so that they can be bred as quickly as possible. The separation is traumatic for the infants and their mothers, who cry out for them. Those who survive are tattooed, sold for $3,000 each, stuffed into crates and shipped to labs for toxicology studies or invasive brain studies, which, according to the Israeli activists, is “a fate worse than death.”

Photo: Alon Ron, Haaretz

Photo: Alon Ron, Haaretz

Mazor Farms has been the target of Israeli animal rights activists for 20 years. In recent years, they have had some success with curbing Mazor’s operations. In 2010, the Israeli airline El-Al agreed to stop transporting animals for experimentation after video emerged of monkeys suffering in crates. In 2011, the Israeli government banned the importation of wild caught monkeys. In 2012, activists took to the streets of Tel Aviv in a dramatic protest to shine a spotlight on the atrocities committed at Mazor Farms and the labs where their monkeys are shipped:

Thanks to the generosity and vision of Ady Gil, Mazor Farms is closed for good. The monkeys will be sent to sanctuaries in Israel that are being expanded to meet the demand.

Your Turn

Ady Gil spent a stunning $2 million to free the monkeys, but his foundation will need help paying to expand an existing sanctuary and for lifelong care of these monkeys. Please visit Ady Gil World Conservation to see how you can help give these monkeys a second chance.

Filed under: Experimentation, Victories
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In Just One Week, Group Exposes Illegal Abuse at Three University Labs

October 10, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

In the past week,  the organization Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) has uncovered egregious acts of violence against animals by lab workers at three different universities. In all three cases, SAEN has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Agriculture asking for penalties and/or for the studies to be terminated.

SAEN animal testing

Here’s what SAEN’s uncovered by combing through records:

At The University of South Florida (USF), lab workers deprived monkeys of water, leading to at least one death.

At Oregon Health & Science Univsersity (OHSU), an animal caretaker was exposed for repeatedly punching a pig in her face, drawing blood. Within a week of her arrival, the pig was killed in a “terminal procedure.”

Protesters block OHSU animal research site in 2010 (photo: Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian)

Protesters block OHSU animal research site in 2010 (photo: Brent Wojahn/The Oregonian)

At Washington University in St. Louis, a lab technician with “a history of rough handling of animals” was exposed for punching a dog with “a closed fist.”

After a busy week exposing the lab abuse and filing complaints, SAEN’s Executive Director Michael Budkie reflected on the individuals for whom he is fighting: “As if being caged in a lab and subjected to painful experiments isn’t bad enough, these animals are often victims of gratuitous abuse — abuse that is rarely exposed because of the extreme measures taken to hide the truth. But SAEN will continue to use all tools available to us to shine a spotlight on these abusive facilities until they’re shut down for good.”

SAEN's recent victories

SAEN’s recent victories

As expected, all three of the universities issued statements claiming that they “place a high priority on the proper care and treatment of research animals” and that “mistreatment of any research animal is not tolerated.”

Your Turn

In 2012, In Defense of Animals (IDA), another organization that works to end laboratory abuses, released the findings of a two year undercover investigation at OHSU. Here’s what they exposed then is consistent with the abuses that continue today:

Please visit to learn more about these incidents and find out what small steps you can take to be a voice for animals who are held captive and used in painful, unethical, redundant and unnecessary laboratory experiments.

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Video Shows Experimenters Attacking Peaceful Protesters

September 28, 2014 by Leave a Comment


Animal rights activists are accustomed to being harassed and threatened during protests, but the worst abuses are rarely caught on camera because they are usually random acts – a punch thrown; a shove; someone spitting, etc.

From left to right: Peaceful protesters, UCLA researcher

From left to right: Vigil participant, UCLA researcher

On January 18th, however, activists with Progress for Science recorded several harrowing minutes of bullying and physical intimidation — by academic researchers, no less. On that day, 11 activists holding a peaceful vigil to honor 11 monkeys being abused for redundant and needless government-funded research in UCLA labs were met with viscous attacks by counter-protesters.

Your Turn

This video, which has been seen by only 11,100 people, should have gone viral when it was first posted – not only because of the shocking behavior of the UCLA researchers, but also because of the bravery of the activists. They courageously put themselves in harm’s way – on behalf of the animals who were being harmed.

The video also inadvertently teaches an important lesson: As activists, we must keep our rage in check because outbursts and aggression, shown by the experimenters in this case, shift attention away from the animals, which is where the spotlight should shine.

Please visit Progress for Science to help bring an end to the archaic animal experiments being conducted at UCLA.

Filed under: Experimentation, Opinion
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