Airline doesn’t have to transfer primates

Agency rules against Queen’s and Public Health’s complaint against Air Canada

United/Continental will be the only major North American airline to ship research primates.
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United/Continental will be the only major North American airline to ship research primates.

The Canadian Transport Agency (CTA) recently ruled that Air Canada will have the right to refuse to transport research primates, effective Jan. 10.

The decision comes as a disappointment to Queen’s Vice Principal of Research Steven Liss, who teamed up with the Public Health Agency of Canada to file a complaint after Air Canada sought to cease such transportation.

Air Canada filed with the CTA on Nov. 22, 2011 to make certain revisions to their tariffs, and cargo and freight rules, which would enable them to refuse transportation of research primates by Jan. 2012.

The CTA — an independent administrative body of the government of Canada — ruled in favour of Air Canada’s requests in Dec., 2012.

“We were disappointed but not surprised by the decision,” Liss told the Journal via email.

Research work at Queen’s, concentrated in neurosciences, involves the use of research primates, which are most efficiently transported in airplanes, Liss said.

“Discovery research and the pursuit of knowledge that can be applied to develop new cures or prevent disease in humans and in animals are essential and of importance to the health and welfare of not only Canadians, but to the entire world,” he said.

Queen’s and Public Health, the complainants, as well as Air Canada, the respondent, each had opportunity to provide written arguments to the CTA for this case after Air Canada’s intentions became public.

The proceedings took a year, during which time, Liss said, both parties were contacted to provide information or respond to inquiries.

“We had numerous concerns including the health and welfare of the animals, the imposition that might affect researchers and the advance of research in Canada and burdens that would lead to additional costs,” he said.

Air Canada had asserted that their revisions would follow suit with many other international airlines who no longer carry research primates.

They said that these changes would be in the best interest of their company and respond to public concern over the air transportation of research primates.

According to the Toronto Star, this ruling means that United/Continental will be the only major airline in North America to ship research primates.

Liss said the University doesn’t plan to appeal and will continue to utilize alternative transportation methods for research primates.

“We will continue to provide leadership and lead discussions across the health research community to develop strategies and options that ensures we can continue to advance important research and training.”

Animal rights groups have applauded CTA’s ruling.

“Airlines play a major role in the chain of suffering endured by non-human primates and other animals in laboratories,” Liz White, director of Animal Alliance of Canada, said in a media release. “We’re delighted that Air Canada will now officially join the ranks of other progressive airlines that refuse to be party to this animal cruelty.”



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