Puerto Rico Residents Win Legal Victory in Monkey Farm Fight
Judge Halts Construction After Senate Report Highlights Bioculture’s Misleading Claims and Permit Violations
WASHINGTON—A judge today halted construction of a primate-breeding facility in the Puerto Rican town of Guayama that has raised serious health and environmental concerns among local residents.
The decision by Judge Juan Frau Escudero of Guayama’s Superior Court is the latest development in a lawsuit filed against Bioculture, Ltd., by Puerto Rico residents who say the company has not submitted a full environmental impact statement or held public hearings. Judge Escudero’s ruling, which cites irregularities in the permitting process, follows a report from the Puerto Rico Senate that found strong evidence that Bioculture supplied misleading and contradictory information to obtain permits for the project.
Bioculture, a Mauritius-based company that ships macaque monkeys around the world for use in product testing, wants to breed and sell monkeys for experimentation at the Guayama facility. But the company applied for an animal husbandry permit—meant for farmers intending to breed cows and other animals raised for food.
“Today’s ruling is a victory for the people of Guayama and for everyone concerned about safeguarding the environment and protecting primates from inhumane experiments,” said Debra Durham, Ph.D., a primatologist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington-based nonprofit organization. “It sends a message to Bioculture that Puerto Rico will not tolerate manipulation of its legal system.”
The Puerto Rican Senate’s report found that Bioculture “has had an extremely defiant and disrespectful attitude to the law, at least in parts of the process of obtaining the permits.”
“We conclude that the action and non-actions of the company with respect to the protection and integrity of the cultural, historic and archeological resources of the land has been absolutely inadmissible and reprehensible,” the Senate report said.
The proposed facility could pose serious risks to public health and the environment. Monkeys are likely to escape from Bioculture's Guayama facility. Such escapes could result in the establishment of another invasive species in Puerto Rico, adding to the serious problems already caused by patas monkeys and rhesus monkeys who also invaded the island by escaping from research facilities.
Strong concerns about the Bioculture project have been expressed by both local opponents of the facility and an international coalition of nonprofit health and animal protection organizations, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Recent reports in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal have criticized the usefulness of primate experiments, noting that they consistently fail to predict the safety and effectiveness of drugs in humans.
Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.