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.”
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.
(Miami) – Miami-based World Wide Primates has been awarded a $1,840,000 contract to provide hundreds of monkeys to the National Institutes of Health in a “emergency acquisition” due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
World Wide Primates is a family business owned by Matt Block, a man with a history of serious crimes:
In federal court in January 2018, Matt Block pled guilty to one count of “False information and hoaxes.” Block admitted mailing envelopes containing suspicious white powder and a threatening letter to the home of a World Wide Primates employee and to his own mother’s house, and lying to federal law enforcement agents about his involvement in the bizarre scheme.
In 1993, Block was sentenced to 13 months in prison for smuggling endangered wildlife (baby orangutans).
“The National Institutes of Health should not be doing business with an individual like Matt Block who has a history of serious violations of federal criminal law,” said Nick Atwood, Campaigns Coordinator for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF). “Providing monkeys for use in experimentation is a dirty business, and Block is one of the dirtiest.”
The use of monkeys and other animals in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine is not only cruel and expensive, but is unnecessary. Because of biological differences between species, animal experiments yield results that cannot be safely applied to humans. ARFF believes that the quickest way to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is through human clinical trials and tests using human tissues and cells (including blood samples from people who have recovered from COVID-19 infections).
(Tallahassee) – The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is urging Governor Ron DeSantis to use his veto pen to reject Specific Appropriation 1867A ($1,500,000) for “Bascom Farms/Sturgeon Aquafarms” that has been included in the 2020-21 budget.
At Sturgeon Aquafarms in Bascom, Florida, more than 40,000 sturgeon are confined inside 100 tanks. The large, slow-growing fish spend years swimming endless circles before the females reach maturity. They are then cut open and their eggs removed to be sold as caviar.
“It is not a wise use of the public’s money to support a for-profit caviar producer that has a Madison Avenue storefront,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “We hope that Governor DeSantis will reject this ridiculous appropriation.”
Sturgeon Aquafarms is an affiliate company of Marky’s, a Miami-based retailer of foie gras and other “gourmet” foods. Marky’s also operates a caviar store and restaurant on Madison Avenue in New York City.
(Pembroke Pines, Florida) – Wednesday evening, February 19, the City of Pembroke Pines approved a ban on the use of bullhooks, whips, electric prods and other cruel devices common in circuses.
With the vote, Pembroke Pines joined compassionate cities like Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, Margate, Pompano Beach, Weston and Sebring and will no longer tolerate the abuse of elephants, tigers and other captive circus animals by the use of devices that cause pain and suffering.
While Hollywood and Weston have completely banned live animal displays, Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Margate, Pompano Beach, Sebring – and now the City of Pembroke Pines – have banned the use of bullhooks or similar devices that circus trainers use against their unwilling performers.
Wednesday night’s vote on the ordinance sponsored by Commissioner Angelo Castillo was unanimous.
“It is wrong to use pain and the fear of punishment to control elephants and other animals in the circus,” said ARFF President Nanci Alexander. “Pembroke Pines’ new ordinance is an acknowledgment of the growing public awareness and concern about the treatment of elephants and other animals in the circus.”
The Garden Bros. Circus, a circus with a poor record of animal care, has performed in Pembroke Pines in recent years.
*A bullhook is a weapon, resembling a fireplace poker, which is used to strike, hook, prod and intimidate elephants into obedience. Elephants are controlled through pain and the fear of punishment.
John M. Stewart, President The Florida Bar 651 E. Jefferson Street Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Dear Mr. Stewart:
On behalf of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, I would like to express our deep disappointment at the decision by The Florida Bar not to discipline attorney Thomas W. Cope for a disturbing incident of animal cruelty, and instead to have Mr. Cope attend a “professionalism workshop.”
In May 2019, Mr. Cope shared a video on his Facebook page of a raccoon that had found itself on Mr. Cope’s boat. At the time, the boat was approximately 20 miles offshore. In the video, Mr. Cope intentionally scares the animal off the boat into the water, and laughingly says, “So long, sucker!” The raccoon almost certainly drowned to death.
We believe that Mr. Cope’s actions were criminal, a violation of Florida Statute § 828.12. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission chose not to file charges due to a jurisdictional question, and not because the conduct was determined not to be serious.
According to The Florida Bar’s website, professionalism workshops are intended for lawyers, “whose conduct flirts with or just crosses the line into unethical conduct.” Examples given include rude comments, failure to communicate with clients, and lack of honesty. Surely, abandoning an innocent animal to suffer death by drowning is worse than a lack of communication or disrespectful comments! Attorneys in Florida have been more severely disciplined for less serious conduct. Thomas W. Cope should have been publicly reprimanded, had his license suspended or revoked, or been disbarred.
The failure to discipline Mr. Cope was a missed opportunity to demonstrate that animal cruelty is a serious offense in Florida. There is a well-documented link between animal cruelty and acts of violence against humans. Taking crimes against animals seriously makes our communities safer.