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Monkey Magic! - Another One Bites The Dust

On Thursday 10th March, 2000, Shamrock Monkey Farm at Small Dole near Henfield, West Sussex, UK, announced that it was to close.

The farm has imported non-human primates from Asia to be sold to vivisection laboratories across Europe for the past 40 years. Shamrock (Great Britain) Ltd. issued a statement in which it, "announces that it’s primate facility... will be permanently closed, in the coming weeks."

The surprise decision is the culmination 15 months of campaigning, led by the Save The Shamrock Monkeys group (STSM); and follows the sudden closure of Hillgrove Cat Farm in Witney, Cambridgeshire, UK, in 1999.

Toni Vernelli, of Save The Shamrock Monkeys, reflected the surprise and elation that the announcement had caused for those involved in the campaign, saying:

"I’m still shaking. It is absolutely wonderful, brilliant and amazing news and it really hasn’t started to sink in yet. We have worked so hard to have this place closed and now it is finally going to happen. It is a victory for our campaign, a victory for animal welfare and a victory for all decent-minded people.

"It has been a 15 month campaign. There have been national demonstrations, weekly pickets outside the farm, people collecting petitions from Aberdeen to Penzance, it really has been a national campaign."

Norman Baker, Lib-Dem MP for Lewes in East Sussex, who has constantly spoken out against the farm (and other issues of animal abuse) said:

"I welcome the fact that it is closing because I do not believe it is appropriate that animals, particularly primates, are held for purposes which are dubious."

Whither the inmates now?

In their press statement, Shamrock (Great Britain) Ltd. said that:

"The effective date of the closure will be dictated by the professional care required to tend to the humane relocation of the animals residing in the facility."

Campaigners took this as an indication that the future of these creatures would be in sanctuaries and wildlife parks around the UK. Indeed, offers from such places, including the International Primate Protection League, to rehome the monkeys were reported to have been "flooding in".

The clearing out process began almost immediately after the announcement. Cages were hosed down and shipped out on lorries, staff cleared their desks and drove past protestors for the last time.

Shamrock refused to say where the monkeys were going. When asked by Save the Shamrock Monkeys, the Home Office said that some were going to pre-allocated labs and the rest were none of their concern as they were not lab animals. However, in the House of Commons, Norman Baker, MP, demanded to be told the fate of the Shamrock monkeys. The answer is sickening, but not surprising given the twisted nature of and lack of compassion or humanity in the vivisection industry.

All of the monkeys are to be sold to vivisection laboratories. Some were imported on prearranged contracts with labs, and others were allocated to labs after the decision to close. Maybe when Shamrock said the primates would be, "humanely re-housed," they meant the moving process rather than the destination.

Or, as STSM put it:

"Shamrock’s statement that their closure date would depend on the time taken to ‘humanely relocate the monkeys’ was just another lie from the mouths of animal abusers."

And So, The End Is Near...?

However, as disappointing as this news undoubtedly is, the end of Shamrock Monkey Farm will save thousands of primates from vivisection in the UK. Claims that labs will now import them directly from breeding centres in China, Mauritius and the Philippines are wholly inaccurate. Most labs do not have the necessary quarantine facilities and are unlikely to waste the resources building them when the amount of primates being used is in gradual decline (from 5,100 in the UK in 1987 to 3,700 in 1998). Shamrock Monkey Farm will be no more by the end of April.

Hopefully this is one of the final nails in the coffin of vivisection on primates in the UK. This will be thanks in a large part to pressures from the anti-vivisection movement; and reflects increasing consideration across the globe that non-human primates are close cousins of ours, displaying intelligence, emotion and self-awareness, which entitles them to basic rights. In New Zealand, great apes have, for the first time anywhere, been accorded standing in the legal system. It is illegal for Great Apes to be used in harmful experiments - no matter what the supposed benefits to humans. This is a step along the road to a de facto recognition of rights of animals to life free from willfully inflicted sufferring and death. In the US there are ongoing legal moves towrads the recognition of certain rights for great apes and other primates. Maybe, when the numbers of vivisected primates in the UK have contracted further, the Government will feel able to make a ‘magnaminous’ move and stop primate experiments once and for all.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns
[Sources: Brighton Argus 10.03.00; Updates from Save The Shamrock Monkeys]


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.