Alligator wrestling, an archaic but still common show at tourist attractions in Florida, causes alligators substantial stress, according to a new study by researchers at New York University.
The study, which was published November 13, 2020 in the journal PLOS ONE, is the first empirical study of alligator wrestling in Florida. Researchers reviewed 94 alligator wrestling performances at 15 different venues in Florida, including Everglades Holiday Park (Fort Lauderdale), Jungle Queen (Fort Lauderdale) and Gatorland (Orlando).
“We found that alligator wrestling attractions may be causing systemic welfare harms to the alligators involved with few, if any, environmental conservation payoffs,” the researchers concluded.
In almost every performance wrestlers physically restrained the legs and torsos of alligators, often for as long as five minutes, causing significant stress to the animals. The researchers found wrestlers also forcibly pull alligator’s jaws open, drag alligators around an arena, flip alligators onto their backs, and even poke alligators in their eye sockets. The fact that individual alligators are repeatedly used in performances heightens the animal welfare concerns.
“This important study reinforces our belief that alligator wrestling is cruel and should not be allowed to continue in Florida,” said Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. “We urge Floridians not to support attractions that feature alligator wrestling, and to ask friends and family members visiting Florida to do the same.”
In May, ARFF joined with Action for Primates and One Voice to alert our supporters about a pending shipment of monkeys from Mauritius to Miami. As many as 1,200 monkeys were to be exported for use in experiments or toxicity (poisoning) testing. We urged people to ask Skybus Jet Cargo, who had been hired to fly the monkeys on the extremely long-distance journey, to reject the shipment. The response we received to our action alert from people around the world was overwhelming, demonstrating the widespread public concern there is on this issue. However, despite this, Skybus did not respond to our concerns, so we feared that the shipment had gone ahead as planned.
Last week, we learned of a breach of contract lawsuit filed against Skybus Jet Cargo by a company called International Logistics Support. When we read the complaint, it was clear that the lawsuit was about the shipment of monkeys in our action alert. Skybus Jet Cargo had cancelled the shipment, in part because of “certain political activist organizations.” On behalf of the monkeys, we are happy that Skybus chose not to get involved in the cruel primate trade.
The surprise victory reminds us of a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.” We are grateful to everyone who contacted Skybus Jet Cargo in response to our action alert!
The court files also revealed that Matt Block, an infamous primate dealer who we’ve written about before on this blog, is an owner of International Logistics Support.
Update (October 2020) Thank you to everyone who contacted the First Baptist Church of Southwest Broward about the solitary cow on church-owned property in Cooper City. We know that the church received many, many emails and phone calls from people like you who were concerned about the cow.
A Broward Sheriff’s Office sergeant visited the property in response to ARFF’s complaints and determined that, although not ideal, the cows are provided with what is legally required (food, water, minimal shelter). ARFF will continue to push for additional shade structures and other improvements to the property. We will update you again if conditions change.
Switching to a VEGAN diet is the most important thing you can do to stop the suffering of cows, as well as chickens and other animals on farms big and small in Florida. ARFF’s “101 Reasons to Go Vegan” video is a great place to start to learn about the benefits of a vegan diet for our health, the environment, and the welfare of animals. ___________________________________________________
On a small field surrounded by homes and businesses in Cooper City, Bambi the cow lives a lonely life. Her only shelter from the hot sun is a small bush and a strip of fabric.
Cows can suffer from heat stress in Florida’s high temperatures and humidity. Excessive heat stress can be deadly. In addition, cows are social animals who do best with the companionship of other cows. Bambi deserves a better life!
The property is owned by the First Baptist Church of Southwest Broward. Keeping a cow or two on a property is a well-known method of lowering your tax bill. By claiming the property is a commercial cattle operation, the church saves thousands of dollars each year in taxes.
You Can Help Please contact the First Baptist Church of Southwest Broward and ask them to relinquish the cow to a sanctuary. The church could continue to receive tax benefits if they used the property for other agricultural activities, such as growing crops. Contact:
Pastor Thomas Odom First Baptist Church of Southwest Broward 2700 N Palm Avenue Cooper City, Florida Phone: (954) 404-7706 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“I urge the First Baptist Church of Southwest Broward to relinquish Bambi, the lonely cow living on church property on Palm Avenue, to a sanctuary where she can enjoy life with other cows and receive the care that she deserves. It would be wonderful if the church used the property instead to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that could be provided to food pantries or other charities that help people in need in Broward County.”
Please share with ARFF any responses that you receive.
“The One and Only Ivan,” a new movie now streaming on Disney+, tells the true story of a gorilla who was captured in the wild in Africa and then put on display inside a shopping center in Tacoma, Washington, where “Ivan” spent 27 years living by himself in a barren cage. In 1994, following a campaign led by the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, Ivan was moved to Zoo Atlanta where he lived among other gorillas in a more natural environment. Ivan died in 2012 at the age of 50.
Inspired by the “Free Ivan” campaign, in 1997 the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) launched a similar effort on behalf of King, a gorilla who lives a cruel, solitary existence at the roadside zoo Monkey Jungle in Miami. (Monkey Jungle has been closed to visitors since March.)
ARFF urged Monkey Jungle to also send King to Zoo Atlanta, where he could live out the remainder of his life with companionship and dignity. But despite Zoo Atlanta’s invitation and pleas from primatologist Jane Goodall, TV personality Bob Barker, and thousands of Florida residents, Monkey Jungle refused. (photo: Bob Barker led a march to Monkey Jungle in 1998)
Of the approximately 350 gorillas in zoos in the United States, King is believed to be the only one who lives alone. King has lived without companions since 1989, when a female gorilla at Monkey Jungle died.
Gorillas are intelligent animals with complex social and emotional lives. King, now 50 years old, deserves to spend his final years with other gorillas.
More than 5 million businesses and charities across the country have received loans as part of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, a program intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and keep employees on the payroll. In early July the Small Business Administration (SBA) released a list of businesses that received potentially forgivable loans ranging from $150,000 to $10 million (businesses receiving less than 150K were not named). The SBA disclosed a range for each loan, so we do not know exact dollar amounts. Many of the businesses that received large loans may make animal lovers question the government bailout:
The Zimbal Minkery in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, which may be the largest mink farm in North America, received a loan between $150,000 and $350,000.
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, the largest foie gras farm in the U.S., received between $1 million and $2 million. Another foie gras producer, La Belle Farm, received at least $350,000. Both farms are located in Sullivan County, New York. According to SBA data, neither farm stated that the money would preserve a single job. (The purpose of the Paycheck Protection Program is to help businesses retain employees.)
Hillandale Farms, one of the largest egg producers in the country, received a loan as large as $1 million.
Petland, the nation’s “largest retail supporter of puppy mills,” according to the Humane Society of the United States, received between $2-5 million (0.5% of all loans were between $2-5 million, according to the SBA). Smaller pet stores that sell puppy mill dogs also received loans, such as the TeaCups, Puppies & Boutique store in Davie, Florida (between $150,000-350,000).
SeaQuest, a company with a history of poor animal care at its aquariums inside malls across the country, received a multimillion-dollar loan.
Monkey Jungle, a roadside zoo outside Miami that has long attracted controversy, received between $150,000-350,000. Monkey Jungle has been closed to visitors since March.
The UniverSoul Circus and Carden International Circus, two circuses that pre-COVID were traveling with elephants and other wild animals, received between $350,000-$1 million each.
The St. Petersburg Kennel Club (known as Derby Lane), one of only a few greyhound tracks still operating in Florida, received as much as $5 million. Live greyhound racing in Florida must end by December 31, thanks to a 2018 referendum approved by voters to ban the cruel industry.
World Wide Primates, a Miami-based laboratory animal supplier owned by a twice-convicted felon, received between $350,000-1 million, even though the company has also been awarded over $4 million in federal contracts since the beginning of the year. Marshall BioResources (North Rose, NY) and Ridglan Farms (Blue Mounds, WI), two companies that breed and sell beagles and other animals for research, received $2-5 million and $150,000-350,000 respectfully. Envigo, a notorious animal testing lab that used to be known as Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), received $5-10 million, the maximum loan amount.
Safari Club International Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the trophy-hunting organization, received between $150,000-350,000 from the loan program.
There is good news for those despairing over this use of taxpayer dollars! The Paycheck Protection Program also benefited businesses and organizations that are making the world a better place for animals:
Hundreds of animal shelters and rescue groups across the country benefited from the loan program, such as the Humane Society of Greater Miami and the Humane Society of Broward County, which each received more than $350,000.
PETA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, two leading animal rights organizations, each received loans between $2-5 million.
Mercy for Animals, an organization dedicated to protecting farmed animals, received a loan between $350,000-$1 million.
Vegan Outreach, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society each received between $150,000-350,000 to support their education and outreach efforts, care for rescued animals, and keep their boats in the water.
Plant-based food manufacturers received help from the Paycheck Protection Program. Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky) received $2-5 million to support its 200+ employees. JUST, makers of egg and mayo alternatives, received $2-5 million. Miyoko’s Creamery, known for their delicious vegan cheeses and butter, received $1-2 million to support the growing business.
Vegan restaurant chains Veggie Grill ($2-5 million) and Real Food Daily ($350,000-$1 million) were among many plant-based eating establishments that received funding.
Action for Primates and Animal Rights Foundation of Florida have criticised an experiment, recently published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, which was carried out to study the effectiveness of remdesivir in macaques deliberately infected with Marburg virus, some of whom were left untreated. Remdesivir is an antiviral drug developed by Gilead Sciences, and, according to a conflict of interest statement, five of the authors of the paper were current or former employees and may be shareholders in the company. The remaining authors were from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) and The Geneva Foundation. The research was funded by taxpayers’ money.
Marburg virus causes a highly virulent disease which results in haemorrhagic fever, with a fatality rate of up to 88% in people. The Marburg virus is classified as a Category A biowarfare agent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and there are no vaccines or effective therapies currently available.
In the experiment, 24 long-tailed macaques supplied by Worldwide Primates, Florida, were deliberately injected with the Marburg virus and kept in a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) laboratory at USAMRIID, Frederick, MD. Eighteen of the monkeys were given different doses of the test treatment (remdesivir) starting 4-5 days after the virus injection. The remaining six individuals, who were ‘control’ animals, received no treatment. Blood was taken from each animal via a leg vein on days 0, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 14, 21, 28, 35, and 41 post-inoculation. When blood was taken, the monkeys were given ketamine.
According to the published research, all the ‘control’ monkeys developed acute signs characteristic of Marburg virus disease infection, such as fever and rash, behavioral depression and deteriorating physical responsiveness. They were either allowed to die or were killed 7 and 9 days after infection because of the severity of their suffering. Many of the monkeys who had received treatment also became ill (although they had an “increased survival” rate) and died or had to be killed. All monkeys who were still alive at the end of the observation period were killed for further study. The post-mortems carried out showed that some of the animals had incurred major organ damage as a result of the virus.
According to the CDC, the onset of symptoms for Marburg virus disease in people is sudden and includes fever, chills and muscle pain, followed by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The illness becomes increasingly severe and can include substantial weight loss, massive hemorrhaging, shock, liver failure, and multiple organ dysfunction. Given that the Marburg virus infection in the monkeys in this experiment was stated to have caused disease similar to that in people, we have to assume that at least some of these gruesome and highly painful conditions described by the CDC were present in the monkeys.
Dr Nedim Buyukmihci, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine, UC Davis California and representative of Action for Primates, who has reviewed the publication, stated: “There is no doubt that these macaques suffered horrendously during this experiment. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated situation and many thousands of other non-human primates are caused to suffer greatly as a result of the search for treatment and vaccines against viruses such as Marburg, Ebola and, most recently, the coronavirus responsible for Covid-19. Although the search for treatment or vaccines against such viruses is crucial to reducing suffering and death in people, we should not be causing equal or greater suffering in others such as non-human primates. Aside from the moral implications of using non-human primates in this way, there is also the sound scientific argument that animal research cannot be relied upon to produce safe and effective treatments for people. As moral and intelligent beings, we need to employ research methods that are humane and effective without intentionally causing suffering and death in others.”
Nick Atwood, Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, said: “We are saddened by the Florida connection to this experiment that resulted in the horrible suffering and death of many monkeys. The use of monkeys in the search for a Marburg virus or COVID-19 vaccine is not only cruel, but is unnecessary and often produces misleading results. We need to focus instead on human-based research methods.”
Remdesivir was originally developed as a treatment in people for Ebola and Marburg infections, but did not demonstrate clinical efficacy. Research with remdesivir has since been revived with the outbreak of Covid-19.
Each year hundreds of monkeys are transported into and out of Florida as part of the pet trade, for entertainment and display, and for the research industry. In response to a public records request, ARFF recently received copies of certificates of veterinary inspection filed with the State of Florida detailing 91 separate shipments in 2019 and 2020. The certificates, completed and signed by a veterinarian who states that the animal(s) is sufficiently healthy for shipment, are required when monkeys and many other animals cross the state line. Below are some excerpts from the records that ARFF received.
Zoos and traveling animal acts.
It is common for nonhuman primates and other animals to be traded between zoos, as if they were baseball cards. For example, in late 2019 two mandrills were flown from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and one white-cheeked gibbon was moved from Zoo Miami to the Dallas Zoo.
In April 2019, two smaller zoos– Brights Zoo in Tennessee and Southwick’s Zoo in Massachusetts– sold six squirrel monkeys, one DeBrazza’s monkey and one patas monkey to Animals in Motion, a company in Citra, Florida that provides animals for film and television.
Two men (Phillip Dolci and Tim Lepard) who tour with “banana derby” or “cowboy monkey” acts, in which capuchin monkeys are strapped onto the backs of dogs who then run around at high speeds, filed health certificates when they entered Florida in late 2019 to bring their cruel shows to rodeos and county fairs.
Pet trade. In 2019 and 2020 dozens of marmosets, capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys and tamarins crossed the state line as part of the pet trade.
Florida’s largest breeder of monkeys for the pet trade is likely Jim Hammonds (dba Monkey Whisperer). For over a decade, he has sold baby marmosets out of his home in Parrish (Manatee County). He charges $3,800 for a six week old baby marmoset (In their natural habitat, marmosets remain close to adult caregivers until at least three months of age). So far in 2020, Hammonds has shipped at least 17 marmosets to people across the country, from Texas to North Dakota to Maryland.
In October 2019, a breeder called the Smoky Mountain Zoo (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) sent three marmosets to be sold to the highest bidder at the Gulf Coast Livestock Auction in Madison, Florida.
Vivisection. The largest number of monkeys crossed the Florida state line in 2019 and 2020 as part of the research industry. Florida is home to half a dozen companies that sell monkeys to laboratories for use in research and testing.
In 2019-20, DSP Research Services, a laboratory animal supplier in Homestead, Florida, arranged shipments of monkeys from the Orient BioResource Center in Alice, Texas to the University of Rochester and to the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (Columbus, OH).
In May 2020, a laboratory animal supplier in Hendry County called BC US shipped 20 long-tailed macaques to a Charles River animal testing facility in Stillwell, Kansas. A few weeks earlier, BC US shipped 44 monkeys to a Charles River facility in Reno, Nevada.
In 2019-20, according to the records that ARFF received, the Mannheimer Foundation (facilities in Homestead and LaBelle) shipped a total of 38 hamadryas baboons, rhesus macaques and long-tailed macaques to research institutions, such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop, Texas and the Magee-Womens Research Institute in Pittsburgh.
In 2019, two shipments with a total of 285 long-tailed macaques arrived at Worldwide Primates, a Miami-based laboratory animal supplier with a horrible history, after a long cross-country trip by truck from Altasciences in Everett, Washington. (We’ve written about Worldwide Primates before on this blog.)
In 2019-20, PreLabs, a laboratory animal supplier that has a quarantine/breeding facility in LaBelle, sold hundreds of rhesus macaques, long-tailed macaques and African green monkeys for use in experimentation. The research laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the contract research organization BIOQUAL (Rockville, MD) were major customers.
Last week, a Conquest Air Cargo plane (above) with dozens of monkeys in the cargo hold arrived in Miami from the island of Barbados. The monkeys were imported by PreLabs, a Florida-based supplier of monkeys to laboratories.
African green monkeys (or vervets) are exported from Barbados for research purposes. Trapped in the wild, these monkeys are ripped from their families and forest homes, packed into small wooden crates and shipped as cargo to end up in a laboratory where they will suffer and die in experiments.
You Can Help Please contact Conquest Air Cargo and urge them to refuse to transport monkeys destined for research, and to instead join the increasing number of airlines that have made the decision to stop their involvement in this appalling trade. Contact:
“Dear Conquest Air Cargo: Please stop transporting monkeys destined for the research industry. Many reputable airlines and cargo carriers, including Florida-based airlines Amerijet International and IBC Airways, as well as Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa and Air China have made the decision to no longer be involved in the cruelty and suffering of the international trade in monkeys by refusing to transport monkeys for laboratory suppliers. Please make a similar commitment.”
Please share with ARFF any responses that you receive.
On May 19, neighbors in Palmetto Bay were alarmed when they heard the screaming of birds. When they rushed outside they saw a man roughly grabbing Muscovy ducks and throwing them into crowded cages on his truck. Children who witnessed the scene were terrified.
The man, Andres Canova, operating as Xpress Trappers, is notorious for his cruel treatment of ducks. In recent years he has trapped ducks in cities across South Florida. (Canova recently began a new business targeting iguanas called The Iguana Guy.)
When confronted, Canova often repeats one of a series of lies: that he has permission or has been hired by the city, that the ducks are being removed to be tested for disease, or that the ducks will be relocated. The sad truth is that the trapped ducks are almost certainly killed.
This week in Palmetto Bay, Canova was not only removing ducks from private property without permission, but he was in violation of the village’s bird refuge ordinance. Thankfully, quick-thinking residents took photographs, wrote down the truck’s tag number, and called the police. Canova was cited for trespassing.
Despite the minor penalty, it is encouraging that this time Andres Canova was not allowed to do his dirty business and escape consequences.
You Can Help If you witness a trapper cruelly removing Muscovy ducks, or you suspect that the trapper is trespassing on private property, please document the incident (photos and/or video) and call the police. Contact ARFF as well.
Is your city a bird refuge? Many cities in Florida have been designated bird refuges or sanctuaries. Such designations can offer protection against individuals who treat Muscovy ducks cruelly or capture ducks for profit. If your city is not a bird sanctuary, contact your city commission and urge them to consider adding this important protection for birds (contact ARFF, we can help).
The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Action for Primates and One Voice have received an anonymous tip alleging that Primate Products, a Florida-based importer and supplier of non-human primates to the research industry, has been in contact with a French aviation company, CS Aviation, regarding 1,200 long-tailed macaques it wants to transport from Mauritius to Miami for sale to a laboratory. CS Aviation has agreed to take this on and has enlisted SkyBus Air Cargo to carry out the transport of these primates.
The international trade in primates for research inflicts great cruelty and suffering on these highly intelligent and sensitive animals; including their capture from the wild, their forced captivity in unnatural conditions on farms, the forced early separation of a female from her infant, their transportation in the cargo holds of airplanes and their eventual fate in the research laboratory. During transportation, primates will suffer stress and anxiety while forced to endure extremely long journeys. Packed in small crates in the cargo hold, they may be subjected to delays, inadequate ventilation, noise and extreme temperature fluctuations. Over the years, a number of incidents have taken place where these animals have suffered greatly or have died during transportation on airlines.
Please contact CS Aviation and SkyBus Air Cargo and urge them to refuse to be associated with the cruelty and suffering involved in the international trade in primates for research.
“Dear CS Aviation: Please do not organize the transportation of primates for the research industry, especially a pending shipment of 1,200 long-tailed macaques from Mauritius to Miami with the cargo carrier Skybus Air Cargo.
The transportation of primates by airlines is an issue that attracts strong public concern and opposition, as well as negative media coverage. As a result, many reputable airlines and cargo carriers, including American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, South African Airways, Delta Airlines, Eva Air, Air Canada and China Airlines, have made the decision to dissociate themselves from the cruelty and suffering of the international trade in primates by refusing to transport primates destined for the research industry.
I strongly urge CS Aviation to refuse to be a broker for the transport of primates, thereby dissociating itself from this highly controversial and cruel trade.”
“Dear SkyBus Air Cargo: Please do not transport primates destined for the research industry, in particular a shipment of 1,200 primates from Mauritius to Miami that has been organized through CS Aviation.
The transportation of primates by airlines is an issue that attracts strong public concern and opposition, as well as negative media attention. As a result, many reputable airlines and cargo carriers, including American Airlines, British Airways, United Airlines, South African Airways, Delta Airlines, Eva Air, Air Canada and China Airlines, have made the decision to dissociate themselves from the cruelty and suffering of the international trade in primates by refusing to transport primates destined for the research industry.
I strongly urge SkyBus Air Cargo to refuse to transport primates, thereby dissociating itself from this highly controversial and cruel trade.”