Citizens discuss Safer Human Medicine facility at town hall

Published 9:47 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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Bainbridge residents assembled at the Kirbo Center last Thursday evening to meet for a town hall, discussing Safer Human Medicine’s planned primate breeding facility. Several speakers took to the stage to speak at the event, including PETA Senior Science Advisor on Primate Experimentation Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel; former Thomasville city manager Steve Sykes; local farmer Jan Jones; resident Lise Dasilva; investor Elise Boyd; Linda Miller, whose property is near the facility site; resident Latoria Green; and Sheriff Wiley Griffin.

Dr. Jones-Engel spoke about the nature of the primate trade industry, and the issues with illegal smuggling and trafficking in the industry. “I’m here, and the only reason PETA is here, is that we tackled very similar situation in Brazoria, Texas, where a monkey farm was trying to be set up,” she said. She went on to describe the primate market as an industry “that is basically wallowing in disease, an industry that’s violating national and international laws, an industry that’s trafficking and smuggling endangered species of monkeys.” Engel would go on to discuss the intricacies of CDC quarantine of imported monkeys.

“The CDC has no pre-arrival pathogen screening requirements,” she said. “The monkeys can get loaded up in Asia or in Africa, and they don’t undergo any mandatory screening until they arrive here in the US.” She continued, “And there is a CDC-mandated 31-day quarantine upon arrival. That quarantine is not conducted by CDC officials, that quarantine is actually conducted by the importers themselves. And you can imagine the conflict of interest that arises at that point.”

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Engel would go on to argue that CDC quarantines routinely fail, and presented CDC alerts from last year stating that animals infected with tuberculosis had made it through. “That CDC quarantine is not the panacea,” she said. “That CDC quarantine will not save you, or protect you from the infectious diseases these animals are bringing in, and Safer Human Medicine knew that. This alert would have been in their hands when they were sitting down with officials.”

After Engel concluded, Sykes spoke. Sykes has been acting on behalf of his uncle and aunt Johnny and Penny Reynolds, whose property directly borders the project site, and spoke on what he argues are zoning issues with the project, and the details of how zoning such projects works. According to Sykes, the current site of the facility was annexed by the city of Bainbridge inside the city limits, and was zoned for heavy industry, where animal husbandry is not permitted. Sykes went on to say that the Reynolds attempted to appeal the zoning decision, and that they were told by the city “that the development authority is not required to follow the same zoning laws that everyone else is required to follow.”

When Sheriff Griffin took to the podium, he recounted a meeting about security he had with Safer Human Medicine. He likened the proposed facility to the local jail and prison, and told a story about an inmate escape due to employee misconduct.

“The problem is, my employee didn’t follow policy,” he said. “I assured them, that will probably happen here… You’re going to have an escape, and you should prepare for that.”

Linda Miller provided an update on the legal proceedings surrounding the facility, including the response from the City of Bainbridge to the civil case filed by several citizens. In this response, submitted by Michael Kozlarek, the city argues, “Before reading the remainder of this Defendant’s response, understand this: Plaintiffs’ allegations and their legal import are, in common parlance, wrong. This Defendant understands its actions to have been factually and legally correct under the law.” The response argues, among other things, that the city is immune from suit, that the court lacks jurisdiction in the matter, and that the plaintiffs have failed “to show they are entitled to injunctive relief.”

The city requests the citizens “have and recover nothing and receive no relief from this Defendant” and that the citizen’s complaint be dismissed “with prejudice.”

After all the speakers had concluded, the town hall concluded with a question and answer session. The full livestream of the town hall can be found on the Post-Searchlight’s Facebook page here. A  full copy of the city’s response is available here.