In Hendry County, Florida there's a plan to open a new facility to breed thousands of monkeys for laboratory experiments. Critics have a variety of questions, like where those monkeys would come from.
Florida state senator Dwight Bullard, whose district includes Hendry County and who is a member of the Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, expressed his concerns to Jane in an on camera interview, asking "We're talking about 3,000 primates. If 2 or 3 of them get loose, what does that mean?"
The animal rights group Animal Defenders International filmed video of monkeys being abused in a facility on the island of Mauritius, off the coast of Africa. They claim monkeys like these will be brought from Mauritius to that Florida facility. Primera, the company building the Florida facility issued a strong statement insisting they will not be importing the monkeys from that Mauritian company featured in this undercover video.
So where are they going to get more than 3,000 monkeys? That's just one of many questions people are asking. Despite repeated attempts, we have not been able to reach the company that's building this facility.
In fact, it's been hard to get a straight answer from anyone about this proposed facility. Officials in Hendry County, Florida told us they'd forward our requests to the company, but refused to give us a phone number. There are several corporate entities on paperwork related to this planned facility and we can't reach any of them. We've also gotten the run-around from various government agencies about who is vetting potential safety issues surrounding the plan to bring thousands of monkeys to Florida. Monkeys can carry disease: Herpes b, tuberculosis and the Ebola virus.
Senator Bullard says because of his safety and oversight concerns, “I definitely believe Primera and Hendry county need to put a pause on the establishment of this facility,” adding it’s his understanding that some government agencies “didn’t know that this was even happening… Some of those agencies did not know who to call if something were to take place.”
The company says it's committed to safety and monkey importers must satisfy rigorous U.S. government testing and regulations. In a statement, they wrote:
“The concerns about the origin of primates from the island of Mauritius also brought forth the erroneous topic of the potential of the Ebola virus being imported into Hendry County. This concern is unfounded as the Ebola virus being discussed is not found in Mauritius, but rather thousands of ocean miles away in central regions of Africa... Importers must satisfy rigorous federal testing and oversight requirements which have long been established. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) also enforces strict regulations and oversight governing the care and welfare of these nonhuman primates, as established by the federal Animal Welfare Act.”
But state senator Dwight Bullard is now demanding a public hearing with Primera, the other companies involved in building this facility, Hendry County officials, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Agriculture, the U.S.D.A., the Center for Disease Control and the public. He wants all of those people in a room together so that "they can't continue to point fingers or pass the buck."