Air France slammed for transporting lab monkeys

Air France was forced on Tuesday to defend its practice of flying live animals for lab testing, after US-based animal rights group PETA vowed to continue its campaign to stop the French airline from transporting primates.

Air France slammed for transporting lab monkeys
An animal rights activist from PETA protests against the practice of transporting animals destined for lab testing. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

Air France released a statement on Tuesday saying it complies fully with international regulations governing the carriage of animals destined to be used for laboratory testing. 

Animal rights group PETA had said Monday it hopes to collect 25,000 signatures by October 31st on an online petition urging Air France to cease transporting primates.

In its statement People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) alleged the French airline is among only a few major carriers that still transport monkeys for use in lab experiments.

But in a response from its Paris head office, Air France said its cargo unit ensures the airline only works with laboratories whose biomedical research "is fully in line with current legislation and the regulations drawn up by scientific organizations specializing in animal welfare."

It added that it "visits all customers" to ensure that testing protocols conform with regulations, and that it monitors animal suppliers "who must comply with the breeding rules in force."

"If nothing authorizes an airline from ruling on the merits of using animals in biomedical research… then nothing authorizes it from refusing this type of transport in a perfectly legal way, with particular caution on the part of all those involved," it said.

Air France went on to quote a European Union directive from 2010 as saying that "the use of nonhuman primates in scientific procedures is necessary for biomedical research."

In January 2012, PETA claimed success in urging Air France to cancel a shipment of monkeys from Mauritius to a US laboratory, following a similar appeal to supporters.

This isn't the first time in recent weeks that Air France has ended up in a pickle due to its cargo. Last month, more than a tonne of cocaine, worth €200 million ($270 million), was transported on an Air France flight from Venezuela to France in 30 suitcases.

Venezuelan Justice Minister Miguel Rodriguez openly voiced his suspicion that employees of the airline had been involved in the drug-smuggling.

"How can the cocaine shipment reach France and it gets taken out without going through the normal controls?" he asked.

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France’s Asterix park to shut down dolphin show

A major amusement park in northern France said on Monday it would close its dolphin and sea lion aquarium, the day before lawmakers start to debate new animal welfare rules.

France's Asterix park to shut down dolphin show
France has long discussed imposing stricter rules on using wild animals in amusement parks. Illustration photo: AFP

The dolphin shows are a popular attraction at Parc Asterix, which normally has some two million visitors a year, but have long been a target of animal rights activists.

“We've been thinking about this for several years,” the park's managing director Nicolas Kremer told Le Parisien newspaper, saying the site wanted to focus instead on rides and other shows.

He said the dolphins would be transferred to other aquariums in Europe in the next two months, adding: “Reintroduction in a natural environment is not possible for these animals raised in captivity.”

A ban on captive breeding of dolphins and other marine mammals as well as their use in shows is a key part of the draft law, with the debate due to begin on Tuesday.

A previous effort to outlaw the practices by decree in 2017 was thrown out by the Council of State, France's highest administrative court, but animal rights group have kept up pressure for the ban.

“These associations think that captivity is abuse, but I can tell you that we have always ensured the wellbeing of our animals,” Kremer said.

The park, based on the beloved Asterix the Gaul comics, is hoping to reopen for the busy summer season on April 3rd if coronavirus restrictions are lifted by then.

READ ALSO: Disneyland Paris to begin 'phased reopening' in July