Posted By Erin Sullivan on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 1:32 pm
Florida is at the center of a controversy making international headlines, which is not all that unusual. What is unusual, however, is that this one involves a secret monkey-breeding facility that’s been proposed for Hendry County. In case you’re not sure where that is (we weren’t until we looked it up), here’s a map:
In 2013, a company called SoFlo Ag bought 34 acres in rural Hendry County and proceeded to fence it in, apply for permits to use millions of gallons of water at the site and held meetings with Hendry County elected officials to get approval to build a facility that will house 3,200 captive macaque monkeys, which will reportedly be bred on site. According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the county and the company failed to hold the mandatory public meetings before approving the project, so ALDF has sued the county for what it says is a violation of the state’s Sunshine Laws (a copy of the suit can be found here). According to UK paper the Guardian, there are already three other primate-breeding facilities in the county. It’s suspected that the new facility would breed monkeys for use in research.
Interestingly, nobody seems to know who SoFlo Ag actually is, and nobody is stepping up with the info. The company’s registered info listed on Sunbiz is extremely limited, and its address is a UPS store in Lehigh Acres.
The Guardian reports that the new facility has now caught the attention of not just locals who are frustrated and angry that their county quietly approved the monkey-breeding facility, but also of international animal-rights organizations, including the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, which says that a lot of macaques being bred in Florida were actually caught in the wild from the African island of Mauritius. Animal Defenders International is now saying that Florida could become the leading source in the United States for monkeys for sale for experimentation.
The Florida First Amendment Foundation is questioning the county for how it went about approving the project, but county officials say they did nothing wrong. They filed a motion to have the ALDF lawsuit against them dismissed, but last week a judge just ruled that the case will go forward.
This story even has an Orlando connection – Justine Cowan, an Orlando attorney, is representing the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
How do residents of Hendry County feel about the monkey-breeding facility planned for their area? Watch this News-Press video below.