A plan to build a nearly $4 million monkey breeding facility has galvanized many residents in a Southwest Georgia community.
Safer Human Medicine is behind the project in Bainbridge.
The company wants to house as many as 30,000 monkeys at the site and then sell them for medical and other research purposes.
The national animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is among the groups seeking to stop it.
But the proposal also has stirred many local residents to fight the project based on health, environmental and economic concerns.
Local resident Kristina Martin worries that monkey breeding facilities present risks that chicken breeding facilities, common in Georgia, don’t.
“You don’t have the types of diseases that you do with chickens like you do monkeys,” she said. “You also have airborne pathogens that can be carried from the monkeys.”
Passionate crowds swelled recent public meetings where the project was discussed.
And a Facebook page set up to oppose the project has gained nearly 5,000 followers within weeks.
Many residents are concerned about the site’s location near the Flint River and potential monkey waste coming from the facility.
“That area where they’re building was underwater during the floods of 1994. I don’t think they’re prepared.” Martin said. “It’s something like 444,000 gallons of waste per day. Where do you think that’s going?”
Local and company officials discount these concerns as unfounded.
Several local boards quickly approved property tax breaks for the project, touting its potential to create more than 250 new jobs.
In an open letter to the community, the company (SHM) promised to be a “good neighbor.”
The statement read in part, “The NHP’s (non-human primates) housed in SHM’s facility will not pose a threat to the citizens of Decatur County or the surrounding community. Any animal that enters our site will or will have gone through a very rigorous quarantine program, which is defined and monitored by the CDC based in Georgia.”
The project’s future could be litigated.
Opponents say they’re talking with attorneys, but no legal action has been filed.
This story comes to The Georgia Sun through a reporting partnership with GPB a non-profit newsroom focused on reporting in Georgia.
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