We all love animals. Well, most of us do anyway. In my lifetime, I have provided a loving home to dogs, cats, birds, rabbits and anything else my little girls have desired. Over the years, our pets have served as companions, exercise partners and security detail — among other things.
I consider myself a reasonable and thoughtful person with the ability to see several sides of the same issue, but I cannot find an ounce of logic behind People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the rest of the so-called “animal rights” lobby’s misguided pressure campaign intended to prevent the transporting of research animals.
Over the past several months, PETA and other extremist groups have flooded the inboxes and telephone lines of several major airlines, asking that they cease a practice that has been critical to nearly every major medical advancement over the last century. The fact is, whether we like it or not, animal research is a key part of the research and development of every approved drug on the market.
Think for a moment about a loved one that at any point found out they were suffering from a disease or sickness and were cured by taking medicine. Without the presence of research animals, you could have lost that person.
Some of the most important advances in medicine, including Nobel Prize winner Dr. Jim Allison of the MD Anderson Cancer Center’s groundbreaking work that was critical to the development of immunotherapy, today could not have been accomplished if not for the research mice involved in the process. What if Dr. Allison was unable to get his research mice? This discovery may have never happened.
An important question to ask here is, if the airlines cave to this pressure and prevent the supposedly inhumane practice of transporting research animals by air, aren’t they actually subjecting these animals to a longer and more arduous method of travel?
Additionally, would anyone seriously suggest that we should bypass animal research and immediately use unproved products on humans? By implication, isn’t that what the airlines are suggesting?
Another point to consider is the legality of the matter. Federal law and DOT regulations require airlines to treat all animal transportation requests similarly. How can an airline transport a therapy pet, Seeing Eye dog or monkey for a zoo, but get away with denying a request to transport an animal for research purposes?
The airlines are likely interfering with the protocols of several government agencies as well. The EPA and the FDA both require a sizable amount of animal research before industrial chemicals, vaccines, and other consumer products are brought into the consumer market. According to PETA, other government agencies that require animal research include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and the National Toxicology Program. Based on this information, the DOT has an obligation to investigate this complaint if for no other reason than to ensure that it isn’t hindering the goals of other federal agencies.
Refusal to allow these animals to be transported by plane also means biomedical research will likely end up being performed in countries with less regulation and emphasis on animal welfare. Are the airlines and the DOT content to sit idly by while the United States slowly loses its leadership in medical research and turns over the fate of animal research to countries that won’t uphold our high standards?
Airlines are generally proud to provide a free flight for kids with cancer, but now they won’t fly the research animals that help doctors learn how to treat them? Are we supposed to tell the kids at Shriner’s Hospital for Children that there is no hope for a cure because the airlines are more interested in acquiescing to extreme animal rights groups?
The fact is, the medications in your medicine cabinet are not created magically. Animals played a critical role in the early stages of development of every one of the Top 100 most prescribed drugs. Airlines are basically saying that they are willing fly the finished product, but not assist in the means of developing those products.
When did animal activist groups become a deciding factor in airline policy decisions? If anti-vaxxers suddenly decide to protest an airline, would they also decide to stop shipping pallets of vaccines? What happens if environmental activists protest airlines? Will they also stop shipping paper and wood products?
Airline executives should show some backbone here and take a stand against this type of pressure. It may one day help to save the life of a loved one or even their own. In the meantime, the DOT should insist that they follow the law. DOT sets policy, not animal rights extremists.
• Julio Rivera, editorial director at ReactionaryTimes.com, is a small-business consultant based in New York City.