Why BA refuses to carry lab animals

Airline facing legal battle over its blanket ban on transporting animals for medical research

British Airways
(Image credit: Pascal Pavani/AFP/Getty Images)

British Airways is facing a legal battle from scientists trying to end the airline’s blanket ban on flying lab animals, according to reports.

The Times says that “although airlines carry animals if they are pets or for zoos, campaigning by animal-rights activists has meant that almost all refuse to take them if they are for medical research”.

Scientists claim that as a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure animals for laboratory research into a host of serious diseases.

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The newspaper is backing the scientists, in an editorial that argues: “This research saves lives. Not one major recent breakthrough in treatments for premature babies, cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis or Parkinson’s disease would have been possible without it.”

The US National Association for Biomedical Research, a non-profit organisation representing animal researchers, has filed a complaint with the US Department of Transport against BA and three other airlines - United Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Qatar Airways.

The complaint argues that in banning animals bound for labs while carrying others if they are pets or for zoos, the carriers are “breaking rules concerning discrimination”, The Times reports.

Kirk Leech, from the European Animal Research Association, said that over the past decade, there had been a “haemorrhaging” of airlines willing to carry lab animals, because of “potential PR problems”.

“Animal research is a global endeavour,” Leech continued. “They are bred in one part of the world and transported to another. This is a drastic step, but there seems to be no way forward. Airlines have refused to budge.”

BA and the other three companies have until 26 September to respond, before the Department of Transport launches a formal investigation

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