Following the recent removal of protections that had been afforded to rhesus macaques for 50 years under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, supporters of PETA India, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), and the Aashray Foundation gathered on Friday 27 October wearing giant monkey masks and brandishing signs to beseech Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reinstate protections that would prevent rhesus macaques from being killed or captured for the experimentation, meat, or pet industries, among other forms of abuse.
In a letter to Prime Minister Modi, PETA India raised concerns over evidence that unscrupulous foreign monkey importers are hoping to pillage India’s rhesus macaque population. Specifically, an office memorandum published by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) on 11 May 2022 highlighted possible attempts by the Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings to export vulnerable live monkeys from India for use in experimentation. In response, the WCCB alerted its field formations to the situation, to prevent the illegal export of primates from India. This development reveals that Indian rhesus macaques face imminent threat.
In addition to being revered in Hinduism, rhesus macaques fulfil an important role in local ecosystems by dispersing seeds – due to their frequent consumption of fruit – and their absence can be detrimental to forests. Monkeys taken from their natural habitats by wildlife dealers are often crammed into small wooden crates and transported in the dark, terrifying cargo holds of planes for as long as 30 hours. The stress of capture and transportation can weaken their immune systems, increasing the risk of spreading zoonotic diseases in India and around the world. In laboratories, monkeys are typically confined – alone – to small metal cages and tormented in experiments in which they’re cut open, poisoned, crippled, forced to become addicted to drugs, electroshocked, and killed.