26 October 2012

The not so friendly skies: PETA reveals airlines that transport primates to cruel destinations

Planning a vacation to France any time soon? Before making airfare arrangements, consider that by choosing certain airlines such as Air France, a ticket purchase will result in contribution toward animal cruelty.

According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, there are tens of thousands of primates transported to the U.S. annually from countries such as China, Mauritius, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia to be imprisoned in laboratories and tormented in experiments.

As an unsuspecting passenger, one might be oblivious to the fact that, underneath their seat there might be monkeys crammed into what PETA calls “small wooden crates” that are transported in dark cargo holds of planes.

Tyler Balogh, a student at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, said he felt shocked when he received a PETA newsletter in his email inbox last week.

“It makes me feel ignorant and oblivious to all the horrible things going on right underneath my feet,” Balogh said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, nearly 23,000 primates were brought into the U.S. in 2010. Nearly 3,000 monkeys were imported by animal testing conglomerate: Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories. A whistleblower leaked video footage from SNBL that showed monkeys suffering from tests in which they were injected with experimental chemicals.

According to the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, disease prevention, treatment and cures can and will progress faster as scientifically and ethically superior non-animal alternatives continue to be developed, validated and used. Alternatives that are already available include epidemiological studies, in vitro research on human tissue cultures, non-invasive imaging techniques, computer models and more.

“Airlines may not realize their critical role in prolonging the practice of animal testing, but they should,” NEAVS Programs Assistant Nina Farley said.

Many commercial airlines have banned this practice including: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, US Airways, Air China, China Southern Airlines, TAM Airlines, El Al Airlines and British Airways among others. However, a decreasing group of airlines including: Air France, United Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Philippine Airlines and Vietnam Airlines continue to profit from transporting primates to laboratories.

In effort to put an end to it all, Justin Goodman, PETA’s associate director of laboratory investigations said that after exposing public complaints, China Airlines and Southern China prohibited the transportation of primates.

Monkeys are either purpose-bred or captured in the wild from places such as the African Islands. In transport, monkeys may face extreme temperature fluctuations, dehydration and death.

“Earlier this year, we did get one of the [Air France] shipments canceled,” Goodman said.

The specific shipment consisted of 60 monkeys from Mauritius, Africa.

“There were people on the plane and right beneath them were monkeys pulled out of the wild to be shipped to the U.S.” Goodman said.

Goodman described the passengers as “disturbed” to find out that primates were about to be “transported to their deaths” on the same aircraft.

Consumers have the option to choose which airline to fly. If only one or two airlines are widely known to contribute to animal cruelty, people can make the decision to fly on any of the other ones if they wish.

Unities Airlines and Air Canada are the only two North American airlines that transports primates to laboratories. Air Canada has requested permission from the Canadian Transportation Agency to stop transporting primates. The Canadian government committee makes the final decision in reference to ending the transport of primates to laboratories.

The reason why so many airlines have already prohibited this practice is based on ethical grounds and public pressure. When shipments of these primates were exposed to the public, airlines owners and employees experienced protests, letters, phone calls and office visits from angry customers.

“There is some behind the scenes work that we do to try to bring leadership attention to the issue,” Goodman said. “But the most recent and high profile cases have been from pressure from the public.”

To help damage the public images of these airline companies, PETA representatives encourage people to contact the airlines that are still transporting monkeys to laboratories in effort to modernize their policies.

“We try to set up dialogue directly for PR reasons. It’s not good for their companies to contribute to cruelty,” Goodman said.

PETA, along with researchers from the University of Alabama–Birmingham and Manhattanville College, studied the results of independent Gallup polls conducted from 2001 to 2011, in each of which approximately 1,000 Americans were asked whether they found "medical testing on animals" to be "morally acceptable" or "morally wrong." Poll results showed that across all age groups, genders and political affirmations, opposition to animal testing has increased.

“I think soon we are going to see a serious reevaluation of the experimentation of primates. We’re going to reach a tipping point and I think that tipping point will be soon,” Goodman said.

Goodman’s main focus is to get airlines to stop shipping primates by halting experiments that are happening now, prevent planned experiments from starting and to influence public opinions.

“People’s minds are changing. It’s an exciting time to be involved with this issue and the animal experimenters are running scared,” Goodman said.

The multi-billion dollar animal testing industry in the U.S. is partly funded by American consumers.

“I’ll think about it when I go flying next time. I’ll make sure that I won’t fly on an airline that transports monkeys,” Balogh said. “Other than that, it seems like it’s out of my control.”

To get involved, purchase products that are cruelty-free whether it is toothpaste, cosmetics, mouthwash and so on. Opt out of animal dissection at educational institutions and donate to health and medical charities that do not perform animal testing. In addition, contact government officials by writing letters regarding animal-testing.

“As citizens, it seems like there’s little we can do to end animal experimentation,” Goodman said. “The more people that speak up, the more animals we can save.”

Visit the Action Alerts page on NEAVS.org for more information on what you can do.

Elyssa Schwartz
Florida Throughout her life, Elyssa has always been environmentally conscious. She is a strong believer that any contribution, small or large, can ultimately make an impact. That’s why after reading Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin’s “Skinny Bitch” in 2010, she immediately decided to adopt a plant-based diet. The book went into detail about how a vegan lifestyle is healthier for our planet. Additionally, the repeated reference to meat as decomposing, rotting animal carcasses was also a deal breaker among many others. A journalism major at the University of Central Florida, Elyssa writes for the Central Florida Future. Her first taste of promoting veg was a weekly column titled “Veggin’ Out.”

Photo credit: PETA