The plan to build a sprawling 200-acre monkey breeding facility in Bainbridge, Georgia, hit a roadblock this week when neighbors strongly pushed back against the project.
Local residents of the small Decatur County town, outraged and dismayed by the decision to build such a complex near their homes, pressured their county commissioners to cut ties with Safer Human Medicine, the company behind of the planned installation.
In December, the county approved a plan for the startup to build what would be one of the largest monkey breeding operations in the United States, including tax breaks to establish the facility.
But in response to pressure from the construction community, commissioners voted to reverse that agreement Tuesday.
Now its fate is up in the air and the company will have to find a new location for the monkey breeding property.
Safer Human Medicine filed a legal complaint against the local development authority on Thursday, insisting that the authorities respect the previous agreement.
Macaque monkeys are common subjects of medical research, because many of their body systems are similar to those of humans.
Bainbridge has a population of fewer than 15,000 people, but Safer Human Medicine’s proposed facility would house 30,000 long-tailed macaque monkeys in specially equipped warehouses where, the company says, the monkeys can roam freely and socialize.
Clients are said to include universities, pharmaceutical companies and universities that would purchase animals for medical research.
Monkeys are so similar to people that many human health conditions are studied in them.
Scientists have used different species of macaques to study everything from common diseases like COVID-19 to rare cancers and genetic disorders, as well as more basic research into how the brain and body work.
Safer Human Medicine’s concept art for its proposed monkey farm in Bainbridge, Georgia. At capacity, the $396 million complex would house about 30,000 monkeys, twice the city’s human population.
In an open letter to the local community, Safer Human Medicine explained why it was opening the business now:
‘After the pandemic, we learned the hard way that our researchers in the US need reliable access to healthy primates to develop and evaluate the safety of drugs and therapies that could save the lives of you, your family, your friends and neighbors. .
“Many of the medications found in your medical cabinets today would not exist without this essential medical research, and without these primates, research stops.”
Long-tailed macaques come from Southeast Asia. Several Safer Human Medicine officials have ties to a company that is being investigated for exporting endangered monkeys from their native habitat.
But this did not convince some locals.
“They are an invasive species and 30,000 of them would be invaded by monkeys,” said Ted Lee, a local resident. said local news station WALB-TV.
“I don’t think anyone would want to have 30,000 monkeys next door,” said resident David Barber. saying.
The company’s open letter assured locals that the monkeys would be safely confined at the facility and that there was no reason to fear they would escape or spread disease to the community.
Local government officials met in December to discuss financial arrangements for the facility, dubbed “Project Freedom.”
At that meeting, members of the Decatur-Bainbridge County Industrial Development Authority, City Council, Decatur County Board of Education, Decatur County Commissioners and the Decatur County Board of Tax Assessors agreed to some financial incentives for the company.
A long-tailed macaque in a cage. This monkey, born in Thailand, was destined for a research laboratory
The monkey breeding facility was predicted to cost between $270 million and $400 million and generate around 263 jobs in the area, according to the Development Authority.
Officials’ decision was unanimous: for the first 10 years of its operation, Safer Human Medicine would receive a 100 percent tax reduction. After the first decade, this break would be reduced by 9 percent each year until the company pays 100 percent of its taxes.
But since the December agreement was reached, local residents who learned of the plan have been upset at the prospect of a massive monkey breeding facility in their backyard.
In the Safer Human Medicine concept art, different groups of monkeys are shown separated from each other in a barn-like warehouse.
Locals teamed up with animal rights group PETA and banded together to pressure their local officials to ruin the deal.
Residents latched onto zoning as a potential strategy: The project requires agricultural zoning, but Bainbridge has none available. ABC reported.
For now, the project will have to relocate, according to a city spokesperson.
But it will continue, according to the company:
‘When the County Commission and Development Authority Board initially voted to approve this project, it was a decision made on the facts of the project and the benefits it would bring. The facts of this project remain valid and so does our decision to move forward.’
Safer Human Medicines said its facilities will be humane and safe, offering the monkeys a safe place to live while ensuring locals can sleep at night knowing they won’t have to deal with escapees.
Since the deal was announced, a local real estate broker told ABC that several housing deals had fallen through when potential buyers realized they would be living near a monkey breeding facility.
‘Last week at least four residential contracts were canceled when they found out about the monkey facilities. They’re waiting to see what happens,” Elise Boyd said.
The animal rights group The Humane Society has noted that several Safer Human Medicine officials have worked for Charles River Laboratories, a company that has been accused to obtain endangered long-tailed macaques in their natural habitat in Cambodia.
Safer Human Medicine provided this conceptual image showing monkeys living together in an enriched environment.
The company, for its part, insists that its facilities will be humane:
“The animals will be housed in groups so they can interact and play with each other,” according to the company’s open letter.
‘We will provide them with toys, opportunities to forage and other forms of enrichment. We will supplement your diet with fresh local produce directly from the surrounding community.’
DailyMail.com has reached out to representatives from Safer Human Medicine, as well as Decatur County, and will update this article when they respond.