Proposed monkey warehouse in Georgia would be a step backward for animals and science

Proposed monkey warehouse in Georgia would be a step backward for animals and science

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

A company called “Safer Human Medicine” is proposing to build a monkey breeding warehouse in the small town of Bainbridge, Georgia. At full capacity, the proposed facility, at a significant cost to taxpayers, would be the largest in the U.S., holding up to 30,000 long-tailed macaques bred for experiments. Such a move would not make medicine safer and would only take science and progress for animals backward.

Local residents and national advocates are speaking out in opposition to the compound, and we join them in sounding alarms about this proposal.  Building a facility designed to funnel animal test subjects into an industry that should be embracing non-animal methods and strategies would be a step backward for animals. Unlike non-animal methods, which are based on human biology, experiments on monkeys have been shown to be very unreliable when attempting to predict what will happen in humans, given the important biological differences between humans and monkeys.

Also threatening progress in efforts to replace animal testing with non-animal methods is a provision contained in a U.S. Senate fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill that funds the Department of Health and Human Services. This would allocate an additional $30 million in National Institutes of Health funding to support breeding of, and experiments on, monkeys. This provision runs counter to NIH’s public statements and congressional mandates to focus on advancing non-animal methods. Experiments on monkeys are extremely costly and cause immense pain and suffering. And more than 90% of drugs tested on animals, including primates, ultimately fail in human trials.

Georgia residents: Urge local officials to oppose this monkey facility >>

Some of the corporate executives behind the proposed facility, who advanced these plans behind closed doors to the dismay of the citizens of Bainbridge, are no strangers to controversy. The chief executive officer of Safer Human Medicine is the former chief operating officer of Envigo, which owned a facility in Virginia where thousands of beagles were bred and sold for experiments. Dozens of shocking Animal Welfare Act violations at the facility led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation and lawsuit. The violations included large numbers of dogs with untreated illnesses and injuries, puppies dying from exposure to cold, staff members failing to follow approved euthanasia procedures, a grossly inadequate number of employees to care for thousands of dogs, and unsanitary conditions throughout the facility. In 2022, the Humane Society of the United States, at the request of the DOJ, took on the massive task of removing nearly 4,000 beagles to help place them with shelters and rescues so they could find homes. The facility was ultimately closed.

U.S. residents: Oppose the expansion of the monkey experimentation industry >>

Both the CEO and the chief operating officer of Safer Human Medicine also have ties to companies undergoing a government investigation involving endangered long-tailed macaques, the same species of monkeys that the proposed facility in Bainbridge plans to breed. Inotiv (Envigo’s parent company) and Charles River Laboratories are currently under scrutiny for their roles in allegedly obtaining long-tailed macaques from national parks and protected wild habitats in Cambodia to use in their testing facilities and to sell to other laboratories. Long-tailed macaques—also known as crab-eating macaques and cynomolgus macaques—are considered endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, in large part because tens of thousands of them are imported into the U.S. every year for experiments. (U.S. laboratories and breeding facilities report more than 100,000 primates bred and/or used in experiments each year.) The COO of Safer Human Medicine was previously the executive director of nonhuman primate operations at Charles River Laboratories.

Inotiv also owns the animal testing facility in Indiana where we conducted an undercover investigation released in 2022, documenting the suffering of dogs, monkeys, pigs and rats used in drug tests; nearly all were killed as part of the experiments. During our investigation, two monkeys died while immobilized in restraint chairs.

Monkeys are social, intelligent, inquisitive animals, but when they are bred and used for experimentation their lives are filled with fear, loneliness and pain. In the wild, baby long-tailed macaques are extremely dependent on their mothers, nursing for approximately 14 months. But in breeding facilities, babies are separated from their mothers at a young age—an extremely traumatic event for both mother and baby. In the wild, long-tailed macaques live in the trees, coming down only to find food. But in breeding facilities, once they are taken from their mothers, they get sent to laboratories where they often live in small, barren cages and exhibit high levels of anxiety, shown in their tendencies to constantly pace and excessively self-groom.

Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on monkey breeding and experiments, we should be investing in facilities and infrastructure to support non-animal methods and strategies, which can more accurately predict how the human body will respond to drugs, treatments and substances.

Join us in the fight against this proposal and others like it. If you live in Georgia, you can urge local officials to oppose this facility.

If you live elsewhere in the U.S., tell Congress to oppose an expansion of the monkey experimentation industry that would use $30 million additional taxpayer dollars in its final fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill to fund even more monkey laboratories and breeding facilities.  

Kitty Block is CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Proposed monkey warehouse in Georgia would be a step backward for animals and science

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