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A biomed company wanted to house 43,000 monkeys near Houston. The neighbors were not happy.

Polly Thompson   

A biomed company wanted to house 43,000 monkeys near Houston. The neighbors were not happy.
  • People in Brazoria County, Texas have been trying to stop a company's plans to build a monkey farm.
  • Locals say they're worried about noise, the spread of disease, and monkey corpses.

A biomedical company that wanted to build a research facility housing as many as 43,000 monkeys near Houston is facing opposition from locals who aren't happy about the plan, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Last March, Charles River Laboratories, a research firm worth more $12 billion, bought more than 500 acres of land in Brazoria County to house and breed monkeys for laboratory experiments.

The facility would be considerably larger than any other in the US, according to animal-rights charity PETA.

After the plans were revealed in September, local landowners in the county have been mobilizing to block construction over concerns about the impact on housing values, noise levels, and the spread of disease.

"How much racket does 43,000 monkeys make?" asked Jason Robert, a shrimper who works near the site told the Wall Street Journal. "I'm sure they're not quiet."

"I thought this would be a place to get away from everything," John Stern, a retired veterinarian who built a retreat for his family in the county, told the newspaper. "Now a monkey farm is my neighbor."

A Charles River executive told locals the company would be "good neighbors," according to the Journal.

But with the support of PETA and politicians, efforts to stop the facility being built have gained momentum.

"I am deeply concerned about the lack of communication and the proposed scope of this project," Rep. Cody Vasut, one of the county's representatives, wrote in a letter to the company.

Citing the high likelihood of future flooding and disease spreading, he added that the area was "ill-suited for any significant development, let alone a medical research facility."

PETA sent 4,000 letters to local residents and after a community meeting, the Brazoria County Commissioners Court passed a resolution urging federal and state agencies to deny permits for the primate facility.

Charles River has since scaled back plans to house just 8,600 long-tailed macaques in Brazoria County, the Journal reported, and COO Birgit Girshick told the outlet: "Our plans are on hold."

The company was founded in 1947, is based in Wilmington, Massachusetts and operates more than 150 facilities in some 21 countries, per its website.

Animal testing is still essential for medical progress, according to Oxford University researchers, and played a crucial role in the development of COVID-19 vaccines.

Monkeys imported for research are quarantined until cleared by government veterinarians and no cases of infections spreading to surrounding communities have been recorded, a CDC spokesperson told the Journal.

Charles River Laboratories did not immediately respond to BI's request for comment, made outside normal working hours.

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