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.