The Israeli airline El Al has added itself to the list of air carriers refusing to transport monkeys for medical research.
In this June 18 letter, a spokesman for El Al writes: “El Al will not fly monkeys meant to be used for experiments. Period.” (An English translation of the letter is available here.)
The letter, to Jonathan Shpigel, a lawyer with the Israeli animal-advocacy group Let the Animals Live, follows an Israeli Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that is covered in detail in this article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
In the ruling, the country’s high court said that an Israeli breeding facility could not export wild-caught monkeys to the United States, although it could continue to export captive-bred animals. The B virus Free Cynomolgus (BFC) monkey Breeding Farm near Tel Aviv — popularly known as Mazor Farm — had planned to ship 50 wild-caught animals to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories in Everett, Washington, along with 40 captive-born macaques.
However, Mazor Farm had been relying on El Al to do the shipping.
After the Supreme Court decision, activists worldwide, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, mounted an intense campaign to pressure El Al not to ship the remaining animals. On 18 June, El Al wrote the letter to Shpigel saying that it would no longer transport monkeys.
A similar commitment to stop transporting research primates had been made by El Al in this letter of October 2010. This time, says Shpigel, “The significant thing would be if they would stick to it.”
Neither El Al officials nor a lawyer for Mazor Farm could be reached for comment on Friday afternoon in Israel. This blog will be updated with any responses that the airline or the breeder provide in the coming days.
Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories was also affected in February when activists grounded an Air France flight of 60 monkeys bound from Mauritius to the US facility.
Image credit: Adrian Pingstone