National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

The transportation of primates for research

Posted: 4 September 2014. Updated: 5 September 2014


The most commonly used laboratory primates are macaques, marmosets, tamarins, squirrel monkeys, owl monkeys, spider monkeys and capuchins.

The latest statistics show that 6,095 primates were used for research in the EU in 2011. The UK is one of Europe’s largest users of laboratory monkeys, along with France and Germany. In the USA, 71,317 primates were reportedly used in 2010.

The NAVS has revealed the hidden suffering of primates bred for research on the tropical Indian Ocean island of Mauritius – one of the biggest suppliers of laboratory monkeys in the world, sending thousands to miserable deaths in the USA and worldwide. At this primate facility we filmed baby monkeys torn from their screaming mothers to be tattooed, pregnant monkeys manhandled and pinned down in terrifying routine procedures and screaming monkeys being swung by their tails.

The stress endured by primates during transport can have a profound effect on their physical and psychological health. Stripped of their natural habitat and social group, they are forced, usually alone, into small unfamiliar containers before being flown to laboratories overseas. In transit they face a host of abnormal conditions over which they have no control – from extremes in temperature, pressure, humidity and lighting, to vibration, loud noise, severely restricted movement, lack of food and water and motion sickness. The primates’ exposure to, and inability to deal with, these variables has been shown to affect their well-being directly.

The first leg of a typical journey is from the local breeding centre to the nearest international airport. The primates are locked up in crates with individual compartments typically measuring between 0.05 and 0.1 m3. Very often, primates are brought to the airport 12-20 hours prior to aircraft loading to allow time for packing and paperwork processing. Flight times depend on the distance being covered and the availability of direct routes.

The journey time from the UK or a Europe-based airport to the primates’ final destination, which normally commences after a four hour wait for the animals to be passed through customs, lasts at least 28 hours and in some cases 70 hours or more.

Many airlines have taken an ethical stance concerning the transportation of primates for research, following opposition from animal protection groups and the public. However a few airlines continue to play a fundamental role in the trade, between them transporting thousands of primates each year across the globe. One of the major airlines involved in the trade is Air France which, according to a senior Biodia staff member, “can take a pallet of 80 animals” and continues to fly out monkeys from Mauritius.

Airlines which CURRENTLY transport primates for research

  • Air France “Air France complies with current regulations. Meanwhile the company has established strict standards in terms of comfort and well-being to ensure animals optimal conditions of transport. Primates travel to private research laboratories as well as public research laboratories. This highly supervised activity is paramount in the development of research and medicine in France and Europe. To ensure strict compliance with the regulations on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes (EU Directive 2010/63/EU), random checks on breeding conditions and use are conducted by Air France Cargo”.
  • KLM See Air France (are part of the same airline group) Although KLM does not itself transport monkeys, it is part of the Air France-KLM group. We are calling on them to introduce a company-wide no-fly policy for monkeys bound for laboratories

Airlines which do NOT transport primates for research

  • Air Canada “Air Canada Cargo does not accept shipments of non-human primates intended for laboratory research and/or experimental purposes. Shipments of non-human primates not intended for laboratory research and/or experimental purposes are accepted.”
  • American Airlines “American Airlines will not accept primates used for laboratory research, experimentation or exploitation purposes.”
  • British Airways “no animals for experimentation”
  • Caribbean Airlines “Caribbean Airlines Limited will not accept primates used for laboratory research, experimentation and exploitation purposes.”
  • Cathay Pacific “Cathay Pacific Airways and Dragonair will not accept the following live animals (1) Animals intended for testing, experiment, research or laboratory purposes”
  • China Airlines “Non-human primates will not be accepted for carriage.”
  • Delta Airlines {i]“Non-human primates, regardless of species, are accepted only when being shipped between zoological organizations, societies, wildlife preserves or rehabilitation centers.”
  • Emirates “Emirates will not accept animals intended for laboratory purposes, except rats and mice”
  • Etihad Airways “‘Etihad Airways will not accept any live animals intended for use in scientific research.’ This includes also primates flown for anything other than welfare purposes.”
  • Eva Air “Embargo items are not accepted for carriage on BR flight…B. Laboratory Animals”
  • JetBlue Airways “Shipments unacceptable for Carriage shall include, but not be limited to…Shipments of live, warm-blooded animals”
  • Korean Air “Korean Air prohibits the transportation of Primates for experimental purpose.”
  • Qatar Airways “We also will not accept: Primates that are being carried for research purposes”
  • Singapore Airlines “We do not uplift the following: Primates intended for research purposes”
  • Southwest Airlines “SHIPMENTS NOT ACCEPTABLE: Shipments of live warm-blooded animals”
  • United Airlines “We do not book, accept or transport primates to or from medical research facilities.”
  • US Airways “US Airways cannot accept certain shipments: Live warm blooded animals, Venomous cold-blooded animals/reptiles”
  • Vietnam Airlines “Some breeds of dogs such as Bulldogs, Terriers, Boxers, Pugs; monkeys under 6 months of age, monkeys for experiment purpose are not accepted”

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