The U.S. National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), has accused four airlines operating in the USA, including British Airways, of discrimination by refusing to carry animals for use in medical research when the same animals can be carried as pets, farm animals or for zoos.
In a formal complaint to the Department of Transportation by NABR, the association has said British Airways, China Southern, Qatar Airways and United Airlines should comply with federal laws and that the failure to transport research animals ‘will slow down the progress of essential and life-saving biomedical research that is necessary for drugs, treatments, cures and the prevention of disease’.
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NABR, which represents 360 U.S. public and private organisations, also states in its formal complaint that the airlines’ actions violate federal laws, ‘including ones that prohibit unreasonable discrimination and that require airlines to impose reasonable conditions on transport of these animals’.
The biomedical research sector faces a crisis caused by the refusal by most major commercial airlines to carry animals intended for research purposes, not as a result of transport or safety-related concerns, but because airlines wish to avoid criticism from animal activist groups.
Commenting on the complaint, Kirk Leech, the Executive Director of the European Animal Research Association (EARA), said: “Without the ability to move research models from one country to another, or from breeder to research institution, crucial scientific research seeking new treatments could come to a halt.
“It takes a long time to breed these animals, and if their transport is stopped then researchers will have to recreate breeding colonies, requiring the unnecessary use of many more animals over successive generations.”