'Export of 90 monkeys to US legally problematic'
A-G Weinstein says Nature and Parks Authority agreed to reexamine granting export license on monkeys for animal testing.
Baby long-tailed macaque monkey (illustrative) Photo: reuters
A shipment of 90 female long-tailed macaque monkeys destined for laboratory
research in the US will remain in Israel, at least for the next few
Following a High Court of Justice hearing on Wednesday, the Nature
and Parks Authority gave the go-ahead to reexamine an export license granted to
the Mazor Farm monkey breeding center near Petah Tikva.
justices Salim Joubran, Hanan Melcer and Yoram Danziger said they accepted the
attorney- general’s position on the matter, in which he said there are legal
difficulties with the issue of permits to export the macaques from Israel for
animal testing in a US laboratory.
Wednesday’s urgent High Court hearing
came after animal rights group Let the Animals Live petitioned the court last
week, asking it 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 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 his formal response to the High Court
petition, 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
The second issue Weinstein raised was the lack of any information
regarding whether the US lab will use the monkeys for medical
Israeli policies only permit the export of animals for medical
research whose aim is either to save human lives or reduce suffering in
The attorney-general said that in the light of these issues, he
had recommended to the Israel Nature and Parks Authority that they reexamine
Mazor Farm’s request for an export license.
In response, INPA told the
state attorney’s office that they accepted Weinstein’s recommendation to
reexamine the permits.
In a written response, INPA’s attorney Amir Levy,
said that as part of the reexamination, Mazor Farm would have to submit
information from SNBL regarding the proposed research for which they wanted to
use the macaques.
Levy added that INPA would also examine “the unusual
request to export for research purposes adult female monkeys that had been
imported to Israel from the wild.”
In Wednesday’s High Court hearing,
Joubran asked whether the US Department of Health had provided assurances that
the aims of the research SNBL planned to conduct using the macaques was
life-saving, noting that Weinstein said this information was
Attorney Robert Fishman, representing Mazor Farm, said that to
the best of his knowledge, SBNL had received approvals from its ethics committee
for the research.
Fishman added that Mazor Farm had been granted an
export license, and then had that license taken away, adding that the resultant
delays in the export were problematic.
“Naturally, research does not
wait,” he said.
“The reason for the delay is the desire of [Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan] to close Mazor Farm,” Fishman
Last Monday, Erdan sent a letter to the National Parks Authority,
in which he said Mazor Farm had not complied with Israel’s policy on trading
primates, and added that he believed Israel should end its trade in
Justice Melcer told Fishman that Mazor Farms wanted to do
something outside the norms.
“You took animals from the wild and you want
to to export them,” Melcer said, adding that the monkey breeding farm would now
have to have that request reexamined and that it would have to comply with any
decision made at the end of that examination.
Attorney Jonathan Shpigel,
representing Let The Animals Live, told the court that the animal rights group
was not interested in whether the US ethics authorities had granted permits for
“Israel does not allow trade in primates captured in the
wild,” he said.
Following the Nature and Parks Authority’s checks, which
are expected to take around a month, the authority will file the results to the
court, and a decision will be made on the matter.
Let The Animals Live
said they welcomed the court’s decision to allow the Nature and Parks Authority
to reexamine Mazor Farm’s export license, and said they hoped the end result
would be to prevent the macaques being exported.
“The request [for the
export license] runs contrary to justice and to Israeli policy,” a spokesman for
the group said.
“The High Court emphasized in the hearing that society is
changing, that what used to be acceptable is no longer acceptable, and that it
is important to be aware of these social changes, especially when dealing with
an issue of high public sensitivity like trading in animals for
experimentation,” said Shpigel.