A plan to build a nearly $4 million monkey breeding facility has galvanized many residents in a Southwest Georgia community.
Monkey Farm Is Bananas For Some Small Town Residents
Some local residents and an animal-rights group are protesting plans for a monkey-breeding facility in southwest Georgia, which borders Florida.
Local officials in Bainbridge, Georgia, a rural outpost 20 miles north of the Florida Panhandle, recently approved a start-up’s plan to build one of the largest monkey breeding facilities in the nation.
On Tuesday, opponents urged the Bainbridge City Council to block plans by a company called Safer Human Medicine to build a $396 million complex that would eventually hold up to 30,000 long-tailed macaques that would be sold to universities and pharmaceutical companies for medical research.
Bainbridge says the facility will double the city’s human population.
The company says it plans to employ up to 263 workers, and that the facility would provide a domestic source of monkeys to offset imports.
The national animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is among the groups seeking to stop it.
Neighbors of the primate facility, Penny and Johnny Reynolds, said they are rallying with other residents to do everything they can to shut the monkey facility down.
“It’s unreal,” said resident Penny Reynolds, 77, whose property line borders the site cleared for the 200-acre facility. “Our world is upside down.”
“First I heard about it I worried about myself, what my property value is going to do, what it was going to do to our health, and then all of sudden it wasn’t about just me. It was really about all these people in this area,” Johnny said. “To stop the breeding facility. That’s our overall goal.”
Penny added that the city of Bainbridge’s quality of life is in jeopardy.
“We love to be outside, and I’m concerned about our environment, about the noise. 30,000 monkeys…,” Penny said.
Local resident Kristina Martin worries that monkey breeding facilities present risks that chicken breeding facilities, common in Georgia, don’t.
“You don’t have the types of diseases that you do with chickens like you do monkeys,” she said. “You also have airborne pathogens that can be carried from the monkeys.”
Many residents are concerned about the site’s location near the Flint River and potential monkey waste coming from the facility. “That area where they’re building was underwater during the floods of 1994. I don’t think they’re prepared.” Martin said. “It’s something like 444,000 gallons of waste per day. Where do you think that’s going?”
Safer Human Medicine, the company behind the project, says the long-tailed macaques will be bred and sold to pharmaceutical companies, universities and laboratories for medical research studies. The company hopes to finish construction and welcome its first monkeys later this year.
Several local boards quickly approved property tax breaks for the project, touting its potential to create hundreds of new jobs.
The statement read in part, “The NHP’s (non-human primates) housed in SHM’s facility will not pose a threat to the citizens of Decatur County or the surrounding community. Any animal that enters our site will or will have gone through a very rigorous quarantine program, which is defined and monitored by the CDC based in Georgia.”
Opponents say they’re talking with attorneys, but no legal action has been filed.