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After a 20 year struggle and $2 million, Mazor Farm, which breeds and exports
monkeys for medical experiments, will be shut down.
After a bitter struggle that lasted more than 20 years to close down the
Mazor Farm, which breeds and exports monkeys for medical experiments, many of
the animal rights activists involved in freeing the monkeys must have pinched
themselves when they woke up on Monday morning to make sure they were not
dreaming. The fight against the breeding farm -- which included stormy protests,
threats and mutual mudslinging -- had ended and the activists won.
The farm is set to be shut down completely and its 1,300 monkeys will be set
The surprising conclusion to the struggle came thanks to Ady Gil, a
multimillionaire Israeli living in the US, who laid out no less than $2 million
to spare the monkeys a life of suffering.
Ady Gil bought 1,300 monkeys.
The festive signing ceremony on Monday included a lot of hugs and champagne.
Under a gentlemen's agreement, it was deemed best for Dr. Moshe Bushmitz, the
farm's manager who took endless flak from the activists for almost 20 years, to
add his signature to the purchase agreement elsewhere to avoid any
unpleasantness for both sides.
Doctor Moshe Bushmitz the former manager of the Mazor Farm.
Far away, in California, Gil opened a bottle of champagne to mark the auspicious
"To be honest, I wasn't planning on spending $2 million right now," Gil admits
on the telephone from his home in Hollywood, where he celebrated the occasion
with his rescue dog, Kayla, a Rhodesian Ridgeback-Pit Bull mix. "I said to
myself that I don't want to end up knowing that I had a chance to save 1,300
monkeys and didn't do so -- not that I'm entirely sure that it's the best way to
spend the money."
What do you mean?
"With $2 million, I could save a lot more monkeys -- if I manage to amend the
laws that permit experiments on them by going to war with the US Food and Drug
Administration. The question is whether I can do both, and I think I can. So I
decided to take on the financial responsibility and act."
It's still a lot of money.
"But I didn't see any of the Israeli millionaires and billionaires doing so.
There are those who sold their businesses to Google for millions; but when
efforts were made to enlist some of that money, none of them said, 'You know
what? It's close to my heart, or it's a little close to my heart, I'll put in a
"My problem with people in general is that their priorities, in my opinion,
are wrong -- money comes first and morality second. It’s the other way around for
me. Those monkeys don't have bank accounts or cellphones, and their lives depend
on someone like me, who'll put up money, or like you, who'll give of up his time
and write articles in an effort to stop it. The monkeys can't come along and
say: 'Hey, we don't want to go to the lab.'"
How did you feel during the talks with Dr. Moshe Bushmitz, a man who
exported hundreds of monkeys for experimentation purposes?
"I had no choice. Look, he's the only one selling me the car. I can't go to
another dealership. Bushmitz claims that some of the experiments have led to the
discovery of drugs for people, and that's how he justifies it. People come
before animals on his list of priorities so from his perspective if animals need
to be sacrificed to discover a cure for Ebola - he'll infect monkeys with
Gil's intervention on behalf of the Mazor monkeys came as a godsend to the
groups that have been battling to shut down the farm for years. Established in
1991 - more than 1,000 macaque monkeys at a time were bred for medical
experiments and other purposes at the Mazor Farm.
Animal rights activists began their widely publicized struggle against the farm
the moment it opened; and some 20 years later, an apparent solution appeared:
Israel barred the export of wild animals from the country.
The decision effectively meant the closure of the farm, but the question of what
would become of the monkeys remained unanswered. Last Wednesday, just before the
farm was shut down, the attorney general approved the export of 560 monkeys to
the United States - dooming them to life in a laboratory.
At the same time, as revealed initially by Yedioth Ahronoth, frantic talks were
underway for the purchase of monkeys, with businessman Amos Ron, former
director-general of the Israel Ports Authority and founder of the Monkey Rescue
public-benefit company, leading the way.
Bushmitz was asking for $3,500 per monkey -- the same price the labs pay. Ron
agreed to pay no more than $1,500, and was hoping to raise the money by means of
an Internet campaign and personal approaches to wealthy individuals. The
fund-raising effort, however, came up very short, and he couldn't find anyone to
donate to the cause.
"After (former) environmental protection minister Gilad Erdan decided to shut
down the farm, the monkeys were clearly going to be sold," says Anat Refuah of
Behind Closed Doors organization who has led the fight against the Mazor Farm
for many years.
"There were two options: Either they'd be sold for experiments and a fate
worse than death, or they'd be sold into good hands that would save them. Ady
Gil was in Israel two years ago and he joined one of our rallies and when the
idea to purchase the monkeys came up, I asked him if he'd be willing to save
them and he agreed immediately."
So who is the millionaire who appeared out of the blue to rescue the
macaques from their hell?
Gil, 56, a sworn bachelor, grew up in Ramat Gan and served in the Israel Air
Force. At 25, after a series of random jobs, he went off to try his luck in the
land of endless opportunities - the US, where he met up with Erez Ram, a friend
from the army and later his business partner. In 1992, the two founded American
Hi Definition, a video projection screen company that soon prospered in the
field of HD and today provides big-screen projectors to the Academy Awards, the
Grammys and most of the other major award shows - and also works with the likes
of Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno. The exit came in November 2010,
when American Hi Definition was bought by NEP, one of the largest broadcast and
live event service companies in the world.
Bound by a confidentiality agreement, Gil won't say how much he earned from the
sale to NEP, but from that moment on, he became a full-time animal rights
activist. Most of us would probably have spent the millions otherwise, but Gil
decided to devote his money and free time to an ideological cause. "My first
step was to take $6 million and donate the money to my organization, AGWC -- Ady
Gil World Conservation," he says.
Through his organization, Gil has established an adoption center for cats and
dogs in Los Angeles, financed the neutering and spaying of 6,000 cats in Israel,
built a giant roosting structure for eagles in a wildlife preserve on Mount
Carmel, and invested millions in a ship to fight whaling in Japan. The ship,
christened by Ady Gil, was donated to the anti-whaling organization, Sea
Shepherd, but sunk just two months later following an incident involving a
Japanese whaling boat -- or so Sea Shepherd claims.
"The whalers did indeed ram her; but after the collision, you can see her still
floating very nicely," says Gil, who is suing Sea Shepherd. "They sunk her to
raise money and blamed the sinking on the Japanese."
How do you know?
"The ship's captain came to see me and said, 'I sunk your ship.' He said he was
instructed to do so by Paul Watson, the president of Sea Shepherd. It's a very
popular organization, and when Paul Watson speaks, everyone listens. Everyone's
scared of him. But nothing scares me. I said 'I'm going to nail you,' and I sued
Gil has yet to learn the outcome of the lawsuit, which remains under
deliberation in a US court, but he's looking on the bright side. "The bottom
line is that this is the time when they'd usually be whaling in Antarctica, and
the fact is there's no whaling going on at the moment," he says. "Why? Because
in the wake of all the mess, New Zealand and Australia woke up and sued Japan in
the International Court of Justice in The Hague for carrying out commercial
whaling, which is prohibited by the international treaty."
After the sad affair with Sea Shepherd, Gil turned his attention to taking on
the FDA. "One of most important things is to affect a change in the FDA's
priorities and conceptions," he says. "After all, experiments on animals are of
no use to people or to animals. Scientists concur today that around 90 percent
of the experiments are of no relevance at all to human beings. That's why drugs
that could have been made available to people sometimes aren't -- because they
haven't been tested on animals and therefore haven't won FDA approval."
Unsurprisingly, Gil is also a vegan. "For 10 years now," he says, "It wasn't
popular back then. I had no one to guide me like you have Gary Yourofsky and
others like him today."
Do you know him?
"Actually he sent me an email a few days ago to ask if I could help him out a
little financially. He's a sought-after lecturer, but I don't think he makes
much money from it, so he needs help."
And what now, after the purchase of the monkeys? Initially, Gil says, the
animals will have to remain at the farm until a suitable enclosure is erected
for them. "One thing's for sure," he says, "they won't be in cages. I'm against
The options currently being considered by Monkey Rescue include moving the
macaques to Havat Bodedim in the south of Israel or expanding the Ben Shemen
Monkey Park. The monkeys, Ron explains, cannot be released back into the wild.
"We're talking about monkeys that were born in captivity, and they have no
survival skills," he says. "We also aren't going to turn Israel into India,
where there are monkeys everywhere, because they'll simply look for food and
start going into homes when they don't find any."
The keys to the farm were handed over on Monday. "It's a dream come true. A dark
stain has been lifted off the State of Israel," says Anat Refuah. "I slept
really well for the first time in years. I promise all the monkeys that they
will live the rest of their lives with love and in dignity."
And will we perhaps see Gil in Israel one of these days? "I come once every
two years, unfortunately, but maybe now I'll be motivated to come because of the
monkey park," he says. "In the meantime, I call on all those who wanted to
release the monkeys to come and help. Now begins the not-so-sexy but important
work of safeguarding the monkeys."