In September 2008, the Animal Liberation Front freed monkeys from cages at the Worldwide Primates holding/breeding facility in Miami. It was an action that was never covered by the news media. Read the original claim of responsibility here. Smash HLS has received, anonymously, the following story about the raid. We are publishing it today to mark the 10th anniversary of the raid.
Worldwide Primates was an obvious target. The company imports and breeds monkeys for sale to vivisection labs. The fact that its owner, Matthew Block, was sent to prison in the early 1990s for smuggling baby orangutans only adds another layer of slime to the business. It helped that Worldwide Primates is located a short drive from downtown Miami, and not far away in an isolated area. It was an obvious target, but it was also a target that seemed impossible to hit. We had assumed that a facility that houses hundreds of monkeys must have 24-7 security, or at least a sophisticated security system.
Our small group of activists had visited the property several times before the night of the raid. We hadn’t seen a night watchman, but that was only a little reassuring. We had so many unanswered questions. Are there alarms on the fence or cages? Did someone live in the old RV parked at the southern edge of the property? We concluded that the risk was worth taking, and we were prepared to leave quickly at the first site of a guard or the sound of an alarm. But that didn’t happen.
Worldwide Primates is in an area of Miami-Dade County where neighborhoods of new houses are slowly approaching from the east, but is still mostly farms. Fruit and vegetable farms, plant nurseries, breeders of exotic birds. We knew that the results of a raid of Worldwide Primates would be out of our hands. We couldn’t take the monkeys with us. The best that we could do was to free them from their cages. But if the monkeys managed to make it out of their cages and over the perimeter fence, they would be able to find food and cover to survive. We hoped to save individual animals from the horrors of the vivisection lab, and Worldwide Primates would be damaged financially from losing animals worth thousands of dollars each.
We chose a week day for the raid. We had determined from our previous scouting that our best approach would be from the east. We parked our car on a small residential street at a house that was under construction, walked a couple hundred yards across a farm field and through a wild scrub area to a line of small trees and a chain link fence. We cut a small hole in the fence at ground level and carefully crawled through.
The layout at Worldwide Primates is simple. The property is one long rectangle. Several rows of cages sit on grass. The cages were made of chain link with a door at one corner, and a tin roof or tarp for protection from the sun and rain. We entered at the southern end of the property, furthest from the main entrance where there would be a night watchman, if there was one on duty. We walked past cages full of smaller monkeys and headed instead to the macaques.
The plan had been to quickly cut the padlocks on each cage door, open the doors and let the monkeys run out. At the first cage we discovered that the bolt cutters we brought with us were not large enough, or we were not strong enough, to cut the shackle of the lock. After a brief panic, but unwilling to accept that the night had been a failure, we decided to skip the door and cut open the cage itself. It was hard and slow work, but we found that after cutting two sides of a hole the links fell apart and the hole could be pulled open by hand to make a space large enough for a monkey to climb through.
After we had cut open four or five cages, we paused. How long had we been there? An hour? There had been no sign of guards. No hint of an alarm. It was an amazing, peaceful moment. Watching the moving shapes of the monkeys in the moonlight. The only noise was the rustling of monkeys discovering the new holes in their cages. It took effort for us to move again. Should we continue and move on to other cages? We decided not to press our luck. After a silent ‘good luck’ to the monkeys we walked to the fence, found the hole, and made our way back to the car. We found out later that as many as 30 monkeys had escaped from their cages.