Monkey farm worker: ‘I just couldn’t live with myself if I was going to be doing that’
HENDRY COUNTY, Fla.- A former Hendry County monkey farm worker says what he was asked to do was so horrific, he had to quit his job after only two days.
“When I got involved in that, I knew I just couldn’t live with myself if I was going to be doing
that,” former Primate Products vet tech David Roebuck said. “I couldn’t do it.”
Roebuck says workers at Primate Products’ “Panther Tracks” facility located near Immokalee were
regularly told to perform C-section abortions on pregnant female monkeys, remove the dead fetus,
then package it for sale to buyers.
Roebuck said milk was then extracted from the female cytomologus monkeys using human breast pumps, which was also sold to laboratories.
“The internal organs were then taken from the fetuses and freeze dried and sold to pharmaceutical
companies,” Roebuck said. “After that was done, the mothers were still lactating so they collected
their milk and sold them to another pharmaceutical company”
Roebuck said Primate Products is much more than just a breeder. He said it is a research facility.
“The point of it is to make money,” Roebuck said. “They had financial contracts with pharmaceutical companies, to provide a certain amount of milk for a certain amount of money.”
Exclusive documents obtained by WINK News corroborate the practice. The documents are allegedly a part of Primate Products standard operating procedure manual which instructs the person performing the surgery how to slice open the primate and remove the fetus, then freeze organs should the female monkey die in the process.
“If you know what a deep freezer looks like, there were two of those, filled with parts,” Roebuck
said. “Internal organs, that had to be taken out of the fetuses surgically.”
This new insight into the alleged practices of Primate Products comes only days before Hendry
County officials said they will decide if it will take action against the company for possibly
operating outside of the perimeter of its zoning.
The more than 600-acre property is agriculturally zoned for animal husbandry. Hendry County
administrator Charles Chapman told WINK News last week if the company is conducting animal tests
or experiments it is violating the agricultural zoning code.
Chapman said he had no idea the company was doing anything but breeding monkeys until an exclusive WINK News investigation revealed USDA documents detailing hundreds of tests and experiments were performed at the facility.
Primate Products representative Ed Mashburn told county officials there was no testing or
experiments happening at the facility during a 2012 development-permit pre-application meeting.
Primate Products president Thomas Rowell tells WINK News the company’s practices are “hardly” testing or research, and claims there is a reason for the procedures.
“The idea being we can provide tissue from one animal to be used for in-vitro research,” Rowell wrote in an email response. “Possibly eliminating the need to use hundred[s] of live animals for in-vivo research in the future.”
Rowell emailed the following statement:
“Primate Products provides bioproducts for use in biomedical research consistent with the guiding principles of humane use of animals in scientific research which we refer to the 3 R’s: replace, reduce, and refine.”
Rowell told WINK News last week that tests reported to the USDA were cases of animal
“usage.” He said usage means obtaining bodily fluids, including spinal fluid and blood from
the monkeys, then selling the samples to laboratories. Rowell did not mention C-section abortions or
Primate Products expanded its facility over the past two years and is leasing some of its newly-built property to foreign monkey breeder BioCulture, Hendry County officials confirmed.
Hendry County officials did not return calls prior to broadcast or publication of this report
Primate Products has been operating in Hendry County for more than 15 years and is the county’s
largest and oldest monkey farm.