Monkey breeders sue Georgia county officials after they peel away tax benefits for new facility

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. — A South Georgia county is peeling back its tax benefits for a planned monkey breeding facility following pushback from county residents. Now, the company is suing the county for walking back the agreement.

In December, the Decatur County Commission and the Decatur County-Bainbridge Industrial Development Authority approved a tax abatement for a primate husbandry facility to be operated by Safer Human Medicine.

The facility is a proposed breeding farm for macaque monkeys which officials had approved a 100% tax abatement for the first 10 years of operation and construction.

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After that first decade of operation, the plant was supposed to have its abatement reduced by 9% each year until it is 100% taxable.

As reported by the Associated Press, the Bainbridge, Ga. facility would have cost $396 million and would eventually hold 30,000 long-tailed macaques. Safer Human Medicine said they planned to employ up to 263 staff at the facility, and that the monkeys would be sold to universities and pharmaceutical companies for use in medical research.

While officials had initially greenlit the plan, including the tax abatement, local residents and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals expressed concerns about the facility and the monkeys that would be contained and bred within.


“In a bid to attract a few jobs — many of them low-paying and risking exposure to zoonotic diseases — city and county officials have rolled out the red carpet for an unethical plan by some questionable characters that could spell ecological disaster and potentially spark the next pandemic,” Dr. Lisa Jones-Engel, PETA’s science advisor on primate experimentation, said in a statement.

Following pushback from both PETA and some residents in Bainbridge, Safer Human Medicine put out an open letter about their proposal.

In part, the company said they were grateful for a warm welcome and wanted to build the facility to “help make sure that medical research in the United States is not slowed because scientists and researchers do not have access to non-human primates,” adding that conditions for medical research during the pandemic showed there was not “reliable access to healthy primates to develop and evaluate the safety of potentially life-saving drugs and therapies for you, your family, your friends, and your neighbors.”

After a January public comment period and further review by the county commission, the tax abatement was put forth for reconsideration on Jan. 30, after the “District Attorney filed a Motion for Reconsideration or in the Alternative to Set Aside the Validation Order in the Superior Court,” according to a lawsuit filed by the breeding company.

Safer Human Medicine says in its lawsuit filing that on Feb. 2, the development authority voted to revoke approval of the bond resolution and rescind the bond validation order.

As a result, the company said the county development authority has breached their agreement, and is now suing restore the agreement and proceed with construction, saying that the revocation of the agreement from February’s vote was against a covenant reached in good faith and fairly dealt, previously.

Safer Human Medicine said in their court filing that they “will suffer irreparable harm as a result of the Authority’s bad faith conduct under the PILOT agreement and the Project Agreement,” and that they are entitled to specific performance of those agreements, which was originally detailed in the contract reached in December and initially approved in January.

The breeding company is seeking legal expenses for the lawsuit, even if compensatory damages are not granted in court, according to court records.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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