Court suspends shipment of monkeys to US lab

High Court decision follows petition by animal rights group; previous ruling farm to export animals for experimentation.

March 27, 2012 12:58
3 minute read.
Baby long-tailed macaque monkey (illustrative)

Baby long-tailed macaque monkey R. (photo credit: reuters)

The High Court of Justice on Tuesday issued an interim injunction that suspended the shipment of 90 long-tailed macaque monkeys from a breeding farm in Israel to a US laboratory.

The decision came following a petition against the exports by animal rights group Let The Animals Live (Ten Lehayot Lihiyot) and is the latest stage in a long legal battle over the monkeys’ shipment to the US.

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Immediately following the petition last week, the High Court issued a temporary injunction pending a further decision on advancing the petition to a panel hearing. Following that decision, on Tuesday morning Supreme Court Justice Hanan Melcer issued an an interim injunction to replace the temporary order, and said the petition will be heard by a panel of justices after the Passover holiday.

Melcer also ordered Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to file a legal opinion to the court regarding the matter of exporting monkeys for experiments.

Let the Animals Live spokeswoman Eti Altman welcomed the court ruling regarding the interim injunction as well as its decision to hear the petition after the Passover holiday.

“I hope that Passover, the holiday of freedom, will have a double meaning and that we will all hear and see these monkeys released into their natural habitat,” Altman said.

In its response to the court’s decision, Let the Animals Live said that the trade in primates was “illegal and contrary to Israeli policy.” Said Altman, “We find it hard to believe that the outrageous conduct of the [Israel] Nature and Parks Authority [INPA] continues in this regard.”

The organization petitioned the High Court in the wake of a Central District Court ruling a week ago, which allowed the Mazor Farm monkey breeding farm near Petah Tikva to export 90 female macaques to the US for experimentation. Mazor Farm petitioned the district court after the INPA delayed its export permit for the monkeys.

Animal rights groups had slammed the Central District Court’s ruling, in which Judge Ilan S. Shilo held that the INPA 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.

In their petition, Let The Animals Live argued that exporting the macaques violated the Environmental Protection Ministry’s policy because the animals would be used in experiments that did not have the medical aim of of saving human lives or reducing suffering in humans.

The petition also contends that the export would be illegal because 70 of the 90 monkeys were not bred in captivity but captured in the wild. Let The Animals Live claims that fact contravenes Mazor Farm’s license, which permits it to sell only those primates whose ancestors were born in captivity.

On Monday, the INPA and Mazor Farm filed their responses to the petition.

Mazor Farm asked the court to reject the petition, citing the District Court ruling. The permits for the export were granted in January, its lawyers argued, adding that the real reason for the petition was to bring about the closure of Mazor Farm.

Mazor Farm also said the monkeys would be used for “biomedical research aimed at life-saving or preventing suffering in humans,” and noted that SNBL was bound by international regulations.

Let the Animals Live on Tuesday accused the INPA of failing to enclose in its response to the court a letter from Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, which stated his position on the matter.

In his letter dated Monday, a copy of which Let Animals Live gave to The Jerusalem Post, Erdan said Mazor Farm had not complied with Israel’s policy on trading primates.

Erdan said in the letter that he was considering revoking the INPA’s ability to to issue permits for primate trade for the purpose of experimentation.

“I believe Israel must end its trade in primates, for example the trade carried out by Mazor Farm,” he said.

Erdan said the particular trade in question was “ethically and possibly also legally flawed.”

Sharon Udasin contributed to this report.

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