(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 Prior to the voluntary dismissal, claims against 29 of the defendants had been dismissed by the Court or withdrawn.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.
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.
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.
(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).
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.