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View Count: 76 |  Publish Date: December 21, 2012
Air Canada can get out of monkey business, transport agency rules

Air Canada has the right to keep monkeys bound for laboratories off its flights, the Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled.
The decision will allow the airline to stop transporting non-human primates for research purposes, the latest development in an emotional controversy that has pitted animal rights groups against members of Canada’s science community.
The verdict dismisses two complaints filed in response to the airline’s request to the transportation agency late last year to get out of the monkey business, a bid to remain in step with other major airlines and respond “to widespread public concern.”
Contrary to the complaints from Queen’s University and the Public Health Agency of Canada, the agency found the policy shift does not constitute “any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage” as defined by the Canadian Transportation Agency Act.
Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline is “very pleased that the (transportation agency) has agreed with Air Canada’s position.”
The airline plans to re-file the amendment it proposed in November, which “will require shippers to sign a declaration that non-human primates are not destined for research or experiments,” a change that could come into effect as early as Saturday, Fitzgerald said.
“We trust the (transportation agency) will expedite this request,” he said.
Gabriel Wildgen, a campaigner for Humane Society International Canada, one of several groups behind the push to get airlines to stop transporting monkeys destined for labs, said he was “thrilled with the decision.”
“It’s really taking a stand in favour of animal welfare and ethical science,” he said.
Justin Goodman, associate director of laboratory investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Norfolk, Va., said the “well-reasoned ruling” allows the airline “to do what it’s been trying to do for years, and align its policies against shipping primates to laboratories with virtually every other major airline in the world.”
An official with Public Health Agency of Canada said the department is disappointed with the decision and plans to minimize the impact on research in Canada.
“The primary responsibility of the Agency is to protect the health and safety of Canadians,” agency spokesperson Robert Cyrenne wrote in an email. “Important medical research that involves non-human primates, such as testing the safety of vaccines and medications, will continue.”
The health agency didn’t respond to a question about whether it plans to appeal the decision.
Officials from Queen’s University could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Researchers have told the Star that monkeys are used in cancer research and the testing of vaccines, and that “rapid access to non-human primates” is critical in public health events, such as the 2003 SARS outbreak.
Ground transportation by private carrier is a possible alternative to air transport, but the health agency has expressed worry over the effect of increased travel times on monkeys.
The transportation agency’s decision reverses a position it took in 1998, when it ruled that Air Canada could not refuse the shipment of monkeys headed for labs.
Once Air Canada’s ban is in place, United/Continental will be the only major North American airline that ships live monkeys for experimental use, Goodman said.
With files from Andrew Livingstone

Time: 6:14  |  News Code: 38995  |  Site: TheStar.com
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