Worldwide Primates drops lawsuit against animal rights activists

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2015

(Miami, FL) — Plaintiffs on February 11 voluntarily dismissed a lawsuit against activists with the group South Florida Smash HLS (smashhls.com). The lawsuit, “Worldwide Primates, Inc. v. Serignese,” commenced in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court on March 10, 2014.

The lawsuit originally alleged that 34 named defendants had tortiously interfered with Worldwide Primates’ business relationships. It sought a preliminary and permanent injunction, and damages. Amended complaints were filed in May, June and November. Prior to the voluntary dismissal, claims against 29 of the defendants had been dismissed by the Court or withdrawn. All claims against five remaining defendants have now been dismissed.

“We are extremely pleased that this meritless lawsuit has ended,” said Smash HLS organizer Gary Serignese. “As for Worldwide Primates, we will continue to vigorously speak out on behalf of the hundreds of monkeys each year that the company condemns to a miserable existence inside research labs.”

The Court imposed no restrictions on future protests targeting Worldwide Primates.

The defendants were represented by Thomas Julin and Paulo Lima of Hunton & Williams LLP, and attorneys James Green and Anne O’Berry.

Worldwide Primates is one of the largest importers of monkeys for research and testing in the United States. In 2014, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, Worldwide Primates (16450 SW 180 St., Miami, Florida) imported over 2,000 monkeys from China, Mauritius and St. Kitts & Nevis to be sold for experiments.

# # #

A quick look at the movement of nonhuman primates across the Florida state line

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.

Fur farms and PETA, foie gras and Tofurky — The Paycheck Protection Program and animals

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 bad

  • 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.

The good

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.

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).

# # #

Animal protection groups condemn as cruel and inhumane research carried out at US Army Medical Research Institute in which monkeys were infected with Marburg virus

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.

# # #