Humane Transport of Research Animals

by Suzanne M. Rivera, Ph.D.

For some time, animal rights activists in the US and abroad have been trying to pressure commercial airlines out of their long-standing practice of transporting research animals.  Last week, a coalition of more than 150 leading research organizations and institutions sent a letter to the CEOs of the targeted airlines, urging them to continue transporting animals needed for research purposes.  A copy of the coalition joint letter is available here.

The letter initiative was organized by the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), and had the strong support of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the Council on Governmental Relations (COGR), the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science (AAALAS), and Research!America, to name a few.

The basic thrust of the letter can be summarized by this passage: “Your company’s commitment to transporting laboratory animals is crucial to finding treatments and cures for diseases afflicting millions of people worldwide. We ask that you continue transporting research animals, allowing lifesaving research around the world to progress.”

Per the International Air Transport Association (IATA), “carriage of live animals by air is considered the most humane and expedient method of transportation over long distances.”  As most people who have flown recently know, the transport of companion animals on commercial flights is exceedingly common nowadays (despite the fact that Fluffy or Spot might make a human passenger allergic, I will add).

But, according to the National Research Council (US) Committee on Guidelines for the Humane Transportation of Laboratory Animals, the dwindling availability of transportation services for research animals is “adversely affecting the quality and ease of transportation in the United States.”

Modes of transport that minimize stress and discomfort bear directly on animal health. Air transportation of research animals promotes good animal welfare.  Although the use of animals in research is controversial, the importance of transporting them humanely should not be. 

One thought on “Humane Transport of Research Animals

  1. Whatever the future of animal research humane conditions for animal transportations is also considered as an ethical obligation in Europe
    Different european organization including UAR, Gircor, The Basel Declaration EFPIA met last week to design support strategy to support regular airlines .
    We will be at the next April IATA meeting in Montreal to support these companies and especially Air France who clearly continues to openly claim that they will continue to transport lab animals

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