Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Air Canada forced to ship monkeys.

From The Toronto Star:
The arrival of 48 monkeys on a flight from China this weekend has brought Air Canada under fire for shipping primates destined for research laboratories, but the airline says it is obliged by federal law to accept monkeys as cargo.

A Pearson International Airport employee tipped off the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection that a shipment of monkeys destined for Montreal was being held at the Toronto airport after arriving from China on Saturday.

Sarah Kite, director of communications and special projects for the BUAV, said monkeys destined for research facilities are usually transported in cramped wooden crates in the plane’s cargo hold, where they can be subject to fluctuations in temperature, stopovers and in some cases long delays.

“I think most people would be alarmed to know that monkeys could be travelling alongside their luggage in a cargo hold,” Kite said. She said these monkeys, typically macaques, are often factory farmed for research purposes in countries such as Laos and Mauritius.

Air Canada is one of a small number of airlines that continues to transport these primates, Kite said. Under pressure from animal rights groups and the public, many airlines have banned the practice. British Airways, for example, has a policy of “not carrying live animals that are for use in any laboratory, or for experimentation or exploitation,” according to media liaison manager Sophie Greenyer.

But Air Canada has its hands tied because of an old squabble with a customer. In 1994, the airline refused to carry a shipment of monkeys from Barbados because they were destined for a lab.

The Primate Research Center and Wildlife Reserve of Barbados filed a complaint with the Canadian Transportation Agency, which ruled in 1998 that Air Canada could not refuse to carry the monkeys because they were not a nuisance to passengers in flight. According to the ruling, the “opinion” that the monkey shipment was offensive on “humane or moral grounds” wasn’t good enough.

“We cannot by law refuse the carriage of animals for the sole reason that they could ultimately be destined to a laboratory or for research,” said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick in an email.

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