Monkeys No Longer Flying the Friendly Skies

Monkeys No Longer Flying the Friendly Skies

January 11th, 2013 // 1:40 pm @


After more than a year of pressure from animal-rights activists, United Airlines has agreed to halt shipments of primates to or from medical research laboratories anywhere in the world. The decision means there are no longer any North American carriers that will transport primates for research purposes into the US or Canada.

In fact, only four carriers – Air France, China Eastern Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines – continue to transport primates destined for experiments, according to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which had been pressuring United Airlines for more than a year to adopt the policy.

“It will be much harder for cruel experimenters to get their hands on monkeys to abuse now that United has joined every other commercial airline in North America in refusing to deliver primates to certain suffering and death in laboratories,” says PETA senior vp of lab investigations Kathy Guillermo. “PETA will continue to pressure the few overseas airlines—now numbering only four—that continue this inhumane practice.”

A United Airlines (UAL) spokeswoman confirmed this in an e-mail sent to us. “We do not book, accept or transport non-human primates to or from medical research facilities domestically or internationally. We do ship non-human primates between zoos and sanctuaries within the 50 United States and Puerto Rico,” she wrote.

PETA representatives tell us they had written United Airlines last week to say they would purchase stock in order to introduce a shareholder resolution that would ban primate transport. The delay in adopting the policy stemmed from the 2010 merger between United, which did not ship primates, and Continental, which transported primates for research.

However, Lisa Schoppa, the head of the United safe pet program wrote an essay on the Animal Transportation Association web site in September 2011 in which she implored employees of other airlines to permit shipment of primates for medical research.

“While a majority of the public supports the necessary use of animals in biomedical research, they are also concerned about the care and treatment of laboratory animals. And I urge each member to take action to ensure that this research can continue and that we can someday see the end to such devastating diseases as cancer and AIDS,” she wrote.

“To do this, researchers need our help in humanely transporting different species of animals, and as members of ATA we are in the best position to offer the most humane transport and to ensure these vital tools of research safely reach their destinations.

“After one of our officers saw a shipment of research animals in our warehouse, he asked me ‘have you ever looked in the big brown eyes of those animals?’… and I replied with ‘No, but I have looked in the big brown eyes of a child dying of cancer, and in the big brown eyes of a mother whose child just died of cancer.’

“So while I love my pets more than you know, I know that the greater good of mankind can be served by our assisting this industry in the transport of these animals.I challenge each of you to review your policies and ensure you can contribute to this vital and life-giving industry,” she concluded (here is the entire essay).

[UPDATE: The United Airlines spokeswoman has written us to say that Schoppa left the company last summer, but would not disclose the reason.]

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