Cruelty shouldn’t fly

By Michelle Kretzer

 Would you board a flight if you knew that under your feet in the cargo hold, there would be terrified monkeys on their way to a laboratory, where they would be tortured and killed? Few people would. Perhaps that’s why almost every major passenger airline in the world now refuses to accept blood money for shipping primates to their deaths.

 Every major airline, that is, except for one.

 Earlier this year, world-renowned primate expert Dr. Jane Goodall sent a stern e-mail to Air France urging the company to end its part in this cruel trade.

 Dr. Goodall explains that in their natural homes, long-tailed monkeys—the species that Air France ships most often to laboratories—form strong bonds, live in groups of up to 30 individuals and “travel up to a mile a day playing, foraging for food and socializing with one another.” She adds, “Babies are nursed by their mothers until they are more than a year old and females remain in the same social groups for life with their mothers, daughters, sisters and cousins. These social, intelligent primates can live to be more than 30 years old.” But monkeys in laboratories don’t get to experience any of this.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild in Asia and Africa, companies supplying monkeys to laboratories pay trappers to shoot the mothers from trees with dart guns and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are then tossed into bags or cages with little to no food or water and taken to filthy monkey breeding facilities. After the babies are born, they are torn away from their mothers in order to be sold to experimenters in Europe and the U.S.

 Every year, thousands of these monkeys are locked inside tiny crates and loaded into the dark cargo holds of planes for terrifying multistop journeys that can last more than 30 hours.

 Once the monkeys arrive at their final destinations, they are locked inside barren cages all alone and forced to undergo painful, invasive and traumatic experiments. They may be force-fed experimental chemicals, addicted to cocaine, or given infectious diseases such as botulism or bubonic plague, or they may have holes drilled into their skulls. Babies are also torn from their mothers simply for the purpose of studying the harm caused by the resulting psychological distress. Afterward, the monkeys are often killed.

Primates are sensitive, intelligent individuals who belong in the wild with their families. They are not laboratory equipment or cargo.

 After learning from PETA and our affiliates around the globe how primates suffer in experiments and after hearing from outraged customers who demanded that they stop the practice, other major airlines—including Air Canada, American Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa and United Airlines—made the compassionate decision to end their involvement in this dirty business. As a result, imports of primates to U.S. laboratories have dropped by one-third in recent years, and there’s been a 15 percent decrease in the total number of primates imprisoned in these laboratories. This trend must continue.

 You can’t escape your reputation, even at 30,000 feet. It’s time for every airline to refuse to deliver primates to a life of pain and misery inside a laboratory.