US plan for a “mini-city” of 30,000 monkeys for medical research faces backlash | Georgia

A plan to create the largest monkey breeding center in the United States, which would allow 30,000 macaques to move into equipped warehouses in Georgia, faces furious backlash from rights groups animals and some local residents.

The vast 200-acre complex is said to house an unusually large number of monkeys, which are then sent to universities and pharmaceutical companies for medical research. Over the next 20 years, the facility will herd a mega-troop of approximately 30,000 long-tailed macaques, a species native to Southeast Asia, into vast barn-like structures in Bainbridge, Ga. which has a human population of only 14,000 people. .

Safer Human Medicine, the company behind the new $396 million simian metropolis, said the monkeys would be kept in highly secure conditions, would not spread disease in the area and would be fed fresh local produce. .

“We all depend on these essential primates to save the lives of our loved ones and ourselves,” the company said. in an open letter to residents who presented a model of monkeys happily playing with toys in a bright room resembling an apartment.

But the project faces fierce opposition, with some Bainbridge residents calling on local officials to block construction of the proposed primate rectory. “It’s an invasive species and 30,000 of them, we would just be overrun by monkeys,” claims Ted Lee, a local man. “I don’t think anyone would want to have 30,000 monkeys next door” added David Barber, who would live just 400 feet from the new facility.

Animal rights groups are also calling for the project to be scrapped, arguing that breeding primates for medical testing is cruel and provides little benefit in finding new treatments for humans due to differences between species.

“Not only does this decision further threaten the survival of these primates in the wild, it perpetuates a cycle that we should break from,” said Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues at the Humane Society. “We urge local officials to reject the proposal to build this facility and the federal government to prioritize science that will ultimately save human and animal lives.” »

The vast majority of animal medical tests involve rodents, with only about 1% requiring primates, but the practice of conducting experiments on humans’ closest relatives has long been controversial. National Institutes of Health said in 2015 it would no longer support biomedical research on chimpanzees and welfare groups have called for a broader ban as well as a move to alternative methods, such as the use of new technologies like artificial intelligence.

About 70,000 monkeys are still used each year in the United States to test treatments for infectious diseases, aging and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, according to researchers. warning that the United States is becoming weak on primates available for testing. Safer Human Medicine said its mini-monkey city project would help alleviate this problem, while creating more than 260 local jobs to care for the new residents, who will not be removed from the wild. The monkeys weigh around 5 to 7 pounds and, as their name suggests, have very long tails.

“There can often be a lot of misinformation around animal research,” said a spokeswoman for Safer Human Medicine. “Our goal is to provide the Bainbridge community with accurate facts and information about our purpose and operations of the new facility. We remain confident that Bainbridge is the ideal location for this project and plan to move forward with plans for the facility based on the approvals and support we received early in the project.

The facility had initially received tax breaks before construction, although these were withdrawn before local authorities decided whether to allow the project. Safer Human Medicine said it would continue its monkey containment plan even without the tax breaks. Edward Reynolds, the mayor of Bainbridge, has been contacted for comment.

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