Israel to Supply Emergency Funds to Save Monkeys at Farm on Brink of Starvation

Israel's treasury failed to transfer funds to company caring for macaques, as they had promised in court.

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Macaques at the Mazor farm, which were captured abroad and can't be exported abroad for experimentation, at the end of 2016.
Macaques at the Mazor farm, which were captured abroad and can't be exported abroad for experimentation, at the end of 2016.

Shmurat Hakofim, the private company caring for the 1,250 macaques remaining at the shuttered Mazor monkey breeding farm, warned in court Sunday that it won’t be able to care for them as of Tuesday because it’s broke, food is running out and the money the state promised it a month ago has not arrived. Moreover, the company explained during the session at the High Court of Justice, its pleas to receive the promised aid have been ignored.

The state replied that it is taking action to transfer the money as planned, from the Ministry of Finance, but meanwhile the Environment Ministry agreed at the court session to provide emergency funding to see the macaques through the crisis.

Mazor was founded over 20 years ago in central Israel to breed monkeys as an export product, for medical experimentation abroad. However, after years of protest by animal-rights groups, the state ultimately shut it down.

Under Israeli law, monkeys born in captivity may be sold for medical experimentation: The state thus sent the macaques born at Mazor to zoos in Israel, chiefly the Ben Shemen monkey farm. Another 1,250 macaques that had been captured in the wild, and were thus theoretically “not kosher” for sale for experimentation, remained at Mazor: It is their fate that's at stake now.

Shmurat Hakofim was founded not for profit, but for the public good. At year-end 2014 the company officially purchased the 1,250 monkeys from Mazor in order to prevent their sale and export. However, the company warned Sunday that it’s almost out of chow and that the foreign workers caring for the macaques will be leaving Tuesday.

In documents submitted to the High Court, Shmurat Hakofim founder Amos Ron stated that the monkeys' situation is critical and could deteriorate to a disaster within days. The state for its part rejected the company’s allegations, and told the justices that it is arranging to transfer money, although sole responsibility for the animals belongs solely to the company, the two government ministries stressed.

The state explained specficially that with the acquiescence of the attorney general, it was expediting bureaucratic processes to transfer 4.4 million shekels (around $1.5 million) to Shmurat Hakofim, to cover its operations during the next two years. It also said that given the unusual circumstances, the Environment Ministry has decided to transfer 184,000 shekels to the company without delay, to finance the monkeys for three months, through an exemptions mechanism designed to prevent immediate damage — contingent on the company undertaking not to abandon the monkeys to their fate.

While about it, the state hit back at Shmurat Hakofim, saying that abandoning the monkeys would constitute animal abuse, and if that happened, the company would be prosecuted. The state even said it may petition the courts to demand that the company continue caring for the macaques.

Two–and–a–half months ago, the High Court rejected a motion by Shmurat Hakofim to force the state to allocate land for establishment of a sanctuary for the Mazor monkeys, and to finance their care. The court accepted the state’s position that Shmurat Hakofim had not proven that the state had any responsibility for the fate of the monkeys. The court ruled, instead, that the company had the responsibility for them, while urging the state to negotiate with it.

Meanwhile, two months ago, local animal–rights organizations filed a new petition, claiming the monkeys were in immediate peril and pressuring the court to force the state to take action before the animals starve to death.

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