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Israeli airline stops transporting research primates

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


  1. Report this comment

    Brian Rens said:

    On behalf of all the Primates – THANK YOU EL AL!

    The Arrogance displayed by the use of animals in Research is only outweighed by Ignorance.
    Time to wake up.

    Brian Rens
    (South Africa)

  2. Report this comment

    Alfred Levinson said:

    The use of primates in medical research to improve the human condition is a human right. Any airline refusing to transport monkeys for medical research should be seen as human rights violators and should be boycotted.

  3. Report this comment

    Jorge Alarcón said:

    I believe most of the people against animal use in experiments think that the animals are mistreated, badly tortured and just to see what happen, as many and much as possible.

    In fact, there are guidelines for animal welfare regarding pharmaceuticals, which specify how to cause the minimal risks and uncomfort.

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