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2 Feb, 2022 16:04

Airline refuses to ship monkeys for US scientific research

Kenya Airlines will stop animal shipments after a car crash
Airline refuses to ship monkeys for US scientific research

Kenya Airlines will stop shipping monkeys for a US research laboratory after the animals they were transporting got involved in a car crash in Pennsylvania.

Allan Kilavuka, the airline CEO, confirmed on Tuesday in an email to the Associated Press that the company will not renew the contract with the shipper after it expires in February. The shipper, who remains unidentified, has commissioned the airline to transport cynomolgus macaque monkeys from Mauritius in the Indian Ocean to New York.

The shipment of 100 lab monkeys was on the way to a quarantine facility when the pickup towing the trailer ran into a dump truck on a Pennsylvania highway. Several monkeys escaped as a result, all of which were later accounted for by the local authorities. It was also announced that three of them were euthanized. 

The local US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which assisted the state police after the escape, reported Tuesday that the monkeys were sent to an agency-approved quarantine facility. However, the agency refused to disclose its location and reveal what kind of research the monkeys were going to be involved in.

Cynomolgus macaques are often used in medical research due to their DNA being similar to humans. A large demand for this type of monkey has existed in the US since the start of the pandemic, and their supply is running short. About 27,000 primates were shipped into the US in the 12-month period ending September 30, 2020, 21% less than the previous year due to restrictions imposed by China, according to a CDC report cited by the Associated Press. 

The decision made by Kenya Airlines adds to a long series of disputes between animal rights activists and researchers on the topic of animal testing. After the crash in Pennsylvania, an animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals was said to have pushed the airline company to stop shipping monkeys, saying the animals were “tormented in experiments.” 

On Tuesday, PETA called out to the US Transportation representatives to investigate monkey shipping companies, as they might be violating regulations on hazardous materials, since the animals may carry diseases. 

Animal rights groups have been opposing airlines shipping monkeys in the US and the UK since the 1990s. As a result, most major airlines have stopped transporting lab animals.