Fouling Texas, Killing Monkeys: Charles River’s Plan for Massive Monkey Prison

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PETA has uncovered a scheme by Charles River Laboratories, the largest importer of monkeys used for laboratory experiments, to build the biggest monkey-holding facility in the history of the U.S., targeting 500 acres of ecologically sensitive land in Texas. The company is going ahead with the proposal despite the objections of local residents and representatives.

We need your help to stop it.

The enormity of Charles River’s plans cannot be overstated. The company, which is currently under federal investigation for possible violations of monkey-importation laws, wants to build a monkey-importation and breeding facility four times as big as any currently operating in the U.S. If constructed, it could imprison 43,000 monkeys, making it the largest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

To get a sense of the scale of Charles River’s proposal, Rikers Island, New York City’s largest jail, holds about 15,000 people. That’s about one-third the number of monkeys Charles River plans to imprison. The largest similar monkey facility in the U.S., also located in Texas, currently cages about 7,000 animals.

The proposal would have nearly incalculable repercussions for already endangered monkey populations worldwide, risk spreading disease throughout the country, and spell ecological disaster for the residents of Brazoria County (about 50 miles south of Houston), where the site would be located.

In a bid to fly under the radar, Charles River set up a shell company—incorporated in March as Kandurt LLC—to purchase the land, which abuts the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge. It hasn’t disclosed its plans publicly.

Locals alerted PETA to the scheme, and we immediately took action to inform the folks of Brazoria County, mailing 4,000 letters to county residents. Residents turned out in droves to object at the Brazoria County Board of Commissioners’ November 28 meeting, where the panel unanimously recommended that federal authorities axe the proposal.

Despite fierce local opposition, Charles River’s monkey prison could still be constructed if Texas state and federal authorities grant permits for it. That’s why we’re asking you to add your voice to oppose this monstrosity before a shovel hits the ground.

Heard enough? Jump down to the bottom of this page to TAKE ACTION immediately. Or keep reading to find out more about this calamitous proposal.

Charles River’s proposal would be a disaster on numerous levels:

Potential Spread of Disease

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that imported primates significantly threaten public health. Two monkey species in particular, long-tailed and rhesus macaques, have the greatest potential to transmit diseases. Charles River’s proposed facility would imprison both species.

PETA has obtained CDC documents showing that in recent years, there’s been a significant uptick in the arrival in the U.S. of monkeys infected with tuberculosis, malaria, and other deadly diseases. Deadly pathogens and diseases such as herpes B virus, Ebola-like viruses, tuberculosis, and others that monkeys pick up overseas can spread to humans and other animals in Texas. Charles River is supposed to screen for these, but they often go undetected.

PETA also documented that in 2020, 2021, and 2022, the company failed to conduct required disease-prevention exams before trucking monkeys across the country. In response to our evidence, the feds cited the company.

Environmental Pollution

The proposed facility would occupy environmentally sensitive areas that include wetlands, creeks, and rivers, allowing for the rapid and wide distribution into the environment of massive amounts of biological waste—including monkey saliva, feces, urine, blood, and other bodily fluids—potentially harboring pathogens.

Wildlife, including birds and insects, could consume the contaminated soil and water, increasing the risk of passing parasites, viruses, and bacteria to humans. Mosquitoes feeding in the area could transmit malaria or other diseases between the monkeys and humans. And large colonies of captive monkeys have been implicated in local parasite transmission cycles for Chagas disease.

Monkey Escapes

Monkey escapes are alarmingly common. In 2018, four baboons escaped from San Antonio’s Texas Biomedical Research Institute and were spotted by drivers on the highway. Earlier, several chimpanzees escaped from MD Anderson Cancer Center in Bastrop, Texas. A monkey who escaped from Georgia’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center was never found. And that’s not all:

  • Two dozen monkeys found refuge in the local forest after escaping from Louisiana’s Tulane National Primate Research Center.
  • Nine monkeys believed to be infected with herpes B escaped from the Oregon National Primate Research Center, and one evaded capture for three days.
  • A truck carrying 100 monkeys crashed on a Pennsylvania highway in 2022, exposing good Samaritans to the bodily fluids of the recently imported animals.

Charles River Is the Worst

Charles River has an appalling record of animal abuse. The company has been cited by federal authorities on numerous occasions for failing to provide even the most basic animal protections required by law, including for denying veterinary care and pain relief. Blatant neglect has led to abominable deaths. The company baked 32 monkeys to death after no one noticed that a thermostat had malfunctioned at its Nevada facility.

Profit-hungry Charles River also contributes to the decimation of monkey populations in their natural homes, endangering the long-tailed macaque species. These monkeys are snatched from their homes, confined to squalid breeding farms, locked in small wooden crates, and shipped to the U.S. before they’re poisoned, cut up, and killed in gruesome laboratory experiments.

Stop the Proposed Monkey Prison

Charles River is already the top importer of long-tailed macaques into the U.S., and the company experimented on 16,000 monkeys in 2022 alone. Rather than expanding, it should switch to more effective, animal-free test methods.

Please help us stop Charles River: Sign our letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture today.


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