Macaque monkeys AP
Macaque monkeys. Photo by AP
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Nir Kafri
Gilad Erdan Photo by Nir Kafri

Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan imposed a number of restrictions on Moshav Mazor's monkey-breeding farm yesterday. The facility supplies primates for scientific experiments in Israel and around the world.

In a letter to the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, Erdan acknowledged that scientists need to use monkeys in medical experiments. But limits should be placed on the scope and character of this use, especially because monkeys are complex emotionally and behaviorally, Erdan wrote.

He ordered the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority to ban the import of monkeys for scientific experiments in Israel. He said the destinations where monkeys are transported from the farm will be monitored to ensure that the animals are used in medical experiments only.

The monkey-breeding farm at Mazor was set up more than a decade ago. The facility breeds long-tailed macaque monkeys. The import and export of monkeys has been done with the authorization of the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, and in accord with an international agreement on the sale of animals.

In recent years, animal-rights groups have called for the closure of the Mazor facility, arguing that the monkeys suffer unduly when they are transferred and used in experiments.

Erdan's new policy is expected to damage the Mazor farm economically because the facility has relied on the import of monkeys.

Under the new regulations, monkeys already at the farm can breed and be exported. But Erdan insisted that exports will be carefully monitored - sellers and buyers will have to show documents establishing that the animals will be used only in medical experiments.

Yesterday, officials at the Nature and National Parks Protection Authority said that as things stand now, they are only able to determine the monkeys' destination and the institution that is buying them. There is no way of knowing the purpose of the animals' use.

Officials at Mazor were not available for comment.