The public is getting a rare, if unsettling, glimpse inside an animal research facility right here in South Florida after ten internal photos of severely injured primates fell into the hands of animal activists.
When it comes to experimentation on live animals, emotions and opinions run the gamut. Are animals still used unnecessarily? Isn't it worth saving human lives?
The ten photos don't answer these questions. But they are certainly sparking a very public debate.
Primate Products, located in a non-descript warehouse in Doral, imports primates from around the world and sells them to animal research labs. They're also licensed for research, according to the USDA.
The photos depict bloodied, lifeless primates in a surgical setting, deep gashes on skulls, an open wound on an arm, and you can see reddish or inflamed areas on the hindquarters in one photo.
The photos got into the hands of animal activist groups, initially The Animal Liberation Investigative Unit, Stop Animal Exploitation Now, and SMASH HLS, who reposted them on various websites.
"Yeah, it's horrendous,” says Don Anthony, spokesperson for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. ARFF and one other group filed formal complaints with federal inspectors over the animal welfare act.
“We are demanding that the USDA, the Department of Agriculture, do an immediate and thorough investigation," said Anthony.
Top USDA officials, including Eastern Regional Director Betty Goldentyer, confirmed that its inspectors will, based on the photos and complaints, go visit the facility and investigate.
The president of Primate Products, Don Bradford, confirmed that the photos are real, they were taken from inside the facility, and the animals in the images are not dead.
Bradford declined an interview. But in an email exchange, he said "the pictures are those our veterinary staff took to document the medical treatment to animals that were injured by other animals...." He continued, "they are completely healed, healthy, beautiful animals."
Do animal activists believe him?
"Those pictures tell a different story," says Anthony.
Animal activists have picketed Primate Products previously, even Bradford's home and Country Club. Bradford accuses them of links to violent extremists.
But the activists say regardless of how the animals in the photos were injured, it reveals the unsettling world of using live animals for medical and other scientific research.
"They don't want you to know at any of these facilities to know what goes on,” Anthony says, “because it is so gruesome and so disturbing, if more people knew about it, they'd be against it."
The Primate Products president says he welcomes the inspectors. The USDA says Primate Products has not had any enforcement action taken against them in the past.
Still, animal activists say they will picket again September 7th. The USDA says their report will become public 21 days after it is completed.