Miami company owned by twice-convicted felon awarded $1.8 million COVID-19 emergency contract

(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).

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Governor DeSantis urged to veto caviar farm subsidy

(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.

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Pembroke Pines bans bullhooks and electric prods!

(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.

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ARFF statement: Florida Bar failure to discipline lawyer who forced raccoon into ocean

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.

Sincerely,

Nanci Alexander, President

ARFF seeks investigation into senseless slaughter of wild pigs by men using automatic weapons

(Lakeport, Florida) — The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) is asking the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to investigate a recent incident in which wild pigs were released from cages and shot at close range by men using semi-automatic and automatic weapons, including an Uzi submachine gun.

ARFF has compiled the above video from photos and videos posted on Instagram by one of the men. The disturbing images show a group of four men shooting dozens of rounds as the terrified animals flee. Other live pigs wait nearby in cages. The bodies of several dead pigs can also be seen. The photos and videos were posted on October 16. The location was identified as Glades County.

“This is senseless, sadistic killing purely for entertainment,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “Wild pigs are not unfeeling objects to be used for target practice. Have these men become so desensitized to the suffering and death of animals?”

ARFF is asking for an investigation into possible violations of hunting regulations, and regulations concerning the transportation and holding of live wild pigs. Although, as disgusting as this incident was, the men’s actions were likely legal. Shamefully, there are almost no laws protecting wild pigs in Florida. On private property, wild pigs may be killed year round, in unlimited numbers, using any legal to own firearm. No hunting license is required. The “non-native” designation for wild pigs has been used as justification for horrible acts of violence against these animals, cruelties that would not be ignored if suffered by deer or other “native” wildlife.

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Why won’t Fort Lauderdale enforce it’s ban on air rifles?

(Fort Lauderdale) — In July, in a disturbing incident that was caught on video, a wildlife trapper used an air rifle (BB gun) to kill Muscovy ducks at an apartment complex in Fort Lauderdale. Ducks were shot numerous times by the trapper; the bird’s deaths were not quick or humane. In addition, the trapper’s use of an air rifle was in violation of city ordinances.

City of Fort Lauderdale ordinance Sec. 16-52 is clear in its prohibition of the discharge of air rifles within city limits. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has urged the city to enforce its ban on air rifles, to prevent animal suffering and to protect public safety. Unfortunately, City Attorney Alain Boileau has refused, stating that, “the City is permitting licensed pest control companies and trappers to use air rifles.”

“We are disappointed that the City of Fort Lauderdale has failed to enforce it’s ban on air rifles,” said ARFF Campaigns Coordinator Nick Atwood. “There is no exception for pest control companies or wildlife trappers in the city ordinance. Enforcement of the ordinance would not only protect ducks and other wildlife from cruelty, but it would protect residents from injury. Modern air rifles are powerful, and can cause serious injuries.”

There are methods other than the use of air rifles that pest control companies and trappers can use to humanely kill ducks or other wildlife.

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