The attorney-general, Yehuda Weinstein said Friday that a batch of female monkeys trapped in the wild and shipped to Israel cannot be exported for medical research.
"Since [the female monkeys] have been trapped and brought to Israel to live in captivity on [Mazor] Farm for breeding, they should be allow to end their lives in dignity and not in experimentation, nor in the suffering caused by another shipment as well as the experiments themselves," Weinstein said.
The response came in a supplementary legal opinion filed to the High court by the attorney-general's office, in response to a petition by an animal rights group asking to prevent a shipment of 90 long-tailed macaques from the Mazor Farm facility in Petah Tikva to an animal testing laboratory in the USA.
Seventy of the 90 female macaques earmarked for shipment were trapped in the wild and shipped to Israel, where Mazor Farm bred them. The remaining macaques are their offspring, born in captivity.
In his supplementary opinion, Weinstein said that his position was based on the concept that trapping monkeys in the wild should be reduced as much as possible. Animals taken from the wild, the attorney-general said, must be used only to produce offspring that could be used for essential testing.
Let The Animals Live petitioned the court in April, asking justices to overturn a Central District Court decision allowing Mazor Farm to export the macaques.
Animal rights groups had slammed the Central District Court’s ruling, in which Judge Ilan S. Shilo held that the Nature and Parks Authority must permit the macaques to be exported to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories (SNBL) in the US.
According to its website, SNBL is a preclinical contract research organization that specializes in nonhuman primate and small animal research. Israeli and international animal rights groups, including PETA, allege that SNBL has a record of cruelty to the animals in its laboratories, which SNBL denies.
The attorney-general has already said there are legal difficulties with the issue of permits to export the macaques from Israel for animal testing in a US laboratory, and in a High Court hearing last month, justices Salim Joubran, Hanan Melcer and Yoram Danziger said they accepted that position.
In an earlier written response to the High Court petition last month, the attorney-general said 70 of the 90 macaques earmarked for export had been captured in the wild and that it is therefore illegal to trade in them.
In Friday's supplementary legal opinion Weinstein noted that the purpose of this approach regarding trading in monkeys trapped in the wild was to "reduce ecological impact and to reduce intervening in nature to a minimum."
Further, the attorney-general said, this approach "reduces the suffering caused by taking the monkeys from their country of origin and transporting them to Israel, and their transition to life in captivity".
In this light, Weinstein said, "it is enough that the female monkeys were used for breeding on a farm and that their offspring will be used for medical research, and they themselves should not be used for medical research."
In summary, the attorney-general said in his supplementary response, there is a balance between the interest of the female monkeys trapped in the wild, and that of [Mazor Farm] to export them, as well as that of concrete experiments.
That balance, Weinstein said, means that those female macaques trapped in the wild must not be exported from Mazor Farm.
Significantly, the attorney-general also noted that the National Parks Authority (NPA) had said the entire shipment of macaques - including those born in captivity - should not be exported, because there was no qualified approval for the experiments at SNBL.
Israeli policies only permit the export of animals for medical research whose aim was either to save human lives or reduce suffering in humans.
The response also noted that the National Parks Authority (NPA) had reexamined the issue of export permits, following the High Court hearing in April, and had also surmised that monkeys trapped in the wild should not be exported.
Mazor Farm has said that there is no choice but to use long-tailed macaques trapped in the wild for the experiments, which it says are concerned with there development of drugs to treat osteoarthritis in adults. Older monkeys are required for the experiments, but there are no such animals born in captivity and aged 15-20 years, the farm claims.
On Friday, Let The Animals Live said they welcomed the attorney-general's position, which they said "makes it clear that Mazor Farm is trying to trade monkeys in violation of Israeli law and policy".
"This is another chapter in the sad history of Mazor Farm, which is a commercial business responsible for the abduction of wild monkeys and for trading them and their offspring," a spokesman for the organization said.