For Immediate Release:
July 26, 2023
Amanda Hays 202-483-7382
Wilmington, Mass. – Charles River Laboratories has apparently resumed purchasing monkeys from Cambodia—despite telling shareholders that it had stopped. PETA, which owns stock in the company, sent a letter today to Charles River CEO James Foster calling on him to confirm and explain this reversal in policy.
The company announced to shareholders in February that it was under federal criminal and civil investigation for possible illegalities in its importation of long-tailed macaques from Cambodia and would stop exporting monkeys from that country until it could prove the animals weren’t captured in their forest homes. This follows the November 2022 indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice of Cambodian officials and nationals who allegedly formed a “monkey smuggling ring” and passed off wild-caught macaques as captive-bred.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service suspended imports of the long-tailed macaques from Cambodia to the U.S. Yet in an apparent work-around, millions of dollars’ worth of monkeys—hundreds of the animals—from Cambodia were flown to Canada in May, according to a government trade database, and Charles River was the likely importer.
“James Foster seems to want shareholders to believe he cares about the abduction of monkeys from their forest homes, but if he’s importing them from Cambodia to Canada, he’s playing with fire,” says PETA primate scientist Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel. “Charles River may attract the same scrutiny from Canadian officials, who also have a national obligation to uphold the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as it did from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Justice.”
U.S. officials, in addition to launching an investigation into Charles River, have prevented the company from selling more than 1,000 long-tailed macaques it imported into the U.S. from Cambodia. These monkeys remain in limbo because the company hasn’t been able to prove that they were actually captive-bred.
PETA isn’t the only one concerned about Charles River’s shady business practices. According to information recently released to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, one-third of its shareholders voted in favor of a proposal submitted by PETA asking Charles River to disclose the origin of all nonhuman primates imported by the company.
Long-tailed macaques have been driven to the brink of extinction in large part due to the international monkey-laundering business. Importing monkeys also poses a grave and potentially fatal public health risk. Tuberculosis, a highly infectious disease that’s readily transmitted between monkeys and humans, is emerging in primate colonies globally. Monkeys from Cambodia have also been the source of a pathogen so deadly that the U.S. classifies it as a bioterrorism agent.
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information about PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.