Disease Outbreak Concerns Loom Over Proposed Lab Monkey Facility in Texas County

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538-acre facility in Brazoria County would house and breed 43,200 primates for biomedical research purposes.

Residents of a Texas county are opposing the construction of a research facility that would house over 43,000 lab monkeys, citing fears the primates could spread viruses among the general public.

Charles River Laboratories is planning a 538-acre facility in Brazoria County that would house and breed 43,200 primates for biomedical research purposes.

Among other concerns, residents worry the primates could spread disease, especially if a lab monkey escapes, à la the 1995 Dustin Hoffman biological disaster film Outbreak.

In November, the Brazoria County Commissioners office passed a resolution asking the state and federal governments to block the company’s permit over concerns the facility could endanger the environment, wildlife and public health.

In a Wall Street Journal exposé Tuesday, residents wondered if the lab could lessen property values, cited worries over possible disease spread, and questioned “how dead animals and animal waste will be handled.”

“I thought this would be a place to get away from everything. Now a monkey farm is my neighbor,” said resident John Stern.

“How much racket does 43,000 monkeys make? I’m sure they’re not quiet,” commented another property owner.

Leftist group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which was instrumental in raising awareness of the issue in Brazoria County, notes body fluids from lab monkeys could potentially contaminate nearby wetlands, lakes, creeks and soil, spreading viruses, parasites, and bacteria among wildlife and increasing the potential spread of harmful or deadly pathogens to humans.

Two of the monkeys that would be used by Charles River Laboratories, the long-tailed and rhesus macaques, also “have the greatest potential to transmit diseases,” notes PETA.

CDC docs also reportedly show “in recent years, there’s been a significant uptick in the arrival in the U.S. of monkeys infected with tuberculosis, malaria, and other deadly diseases.”

“Deadly pathogens and diseases such as herpes B virus, Ebola-like viruses, tuberculosis, and others that monkeys pick up overseas can spread to humans and other animals in Texas,” PETA writes, adding, “Charles River is supposed to screen for these, but they often go undetected.”

PETA also claims lab primate escapes happen often, and provided a list of recent monkey prison breaks:

At a closed-door meeting with Brazoria County officials in December, Charles River Laboratories reportedly proposed a scaled-back 8,600 monkey facility, and ultimately said it would “pause work to evaluate the flood risks.”

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Charles River Laboratories Chief Operating Officer Birgit Girshick said, “At the current time our plans are on hold.”

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