'Illegal to export macaques for medical experiments'

Monkeys trapped in the wild can only be used to save human lives or reduce suffering.

Baby long-tailed macaque monkey R (photo credit: reuters)
Baby long-tailed macaque monkey R
(photo credit: reuters)
A batch of female monkeys trapped in the wild and shipped to Israel cannot be exported for medical research, Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein said on Friday.
“Since [the 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.
Israeli policy is to only permit the export of animals for medical research whose aim is to save human lives or to reduce suffering in humans.
The Mazor Farm company has said that there is no choice but to use long-tailed macaques trapped in the wild for the experiments, which are concerned with the 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 said.
The response came in a supplementary legal opinion filed to the High Court of Justice 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 Mazor Farm, located near Petah Tikva, to an animal testing laboratory in the US.
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 must be used only to produce offspring that could be used for essential testing, the attorney-general said.
Let The Animals Live petitioned the court in April, asking the justices to overturn a Central District Court decision allowing Mazor Farm to export the macaques.
Animal rights groups had slammed the district court’s ruling, in which Judge Ilan S.
Shilo held that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority must permit the macaques to be exported to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories in the US.
According to its website, Shin Nippon 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 Shin Nippon has a record of cruelty to the animals in its laboratories, which Shin Nippon denies.
The attorney-general has already said there are legal difficulties with the issue of permits to export the macaques 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 was therefore illegal to trade in them.
In Friday’s supplementary legal opinion, Weinstein said 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.”
Furthermore, the attorneygeneral 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 attorneygeneral 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 specific experiments.
That balance, Weinstein said, means that those female macaques trapped in the wild must not be exported from Mazor Farm.
The attorney-general noted that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority 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 Shin Nippon.
The response also noted that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority had reexamined the issue of export permits, following the High Court hearing in April, and had also said that monkeys trapped in the wild should not be exported.
On Friday, Let The Animals Live said it welcomed the attorney-general’s position, which “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.