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Shipment of 60 lab monkeys blocked, PETA says


Various airlines ship monkeys to testing labs around the world. PETA says these boxes contained monkeys being shipped via air to Shin Nippon in Edmonds, Wash.

A daylong bombardment of emails, social media posts and phone calls led Air France to cancel a planned shipment Wednesday of monkeys to a testing lab in the U.S., People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals claimed in a campaign aimed at getting all airlines to ban the practice.

Air France declined to comment on the specific shipment of 60 monkeys from Mauritius, but PETA provided msnbc.com with a copy of an email purportedly sent by an Air France cargo official in Chicago, Ill., to PETA that states: "Our colleagues overseas have confirmed that this scheduled shipment of monkeys has been cancelled."

The campaign follows PETA allegations of abuses at the U.S. branch of a Japanese testing lab. Several airlines were targeted at the time, and PETA followed up with a daylong bombardment earlier this week.

"We don't know whether they will accept future shipments of primates destined for laboratories but are strongly urging them not to and will be monitoring the situation closely like we have been," Justin Goodman, PETA's associate director for lab investigations, told msnbc.com.

"We have written to Air France officials to urge them to adopt a formal policy against transporting primates destined for laboratories as nearly every other major airline in the world already does, including Air France’s partner airlines Delta and Alitalia," he added. "We have not yet received a response."

Goodman noted that "we are in touch with all of the remaining major airlines that do not yet prohibit shipping primates to laboratories, and are making progress with several of them."

He identified them as: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, TAM Airlines, Continental Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines. 

"Air Canada also does not yet prohibit this practice but is currently going to great lengths to get the required permission from the Canadian government to create such a companywide ban," he added.

While not commenting on a specific shipment, Air France spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand did tell msnbc.com that:

"Air France Cargo refuses to transport laboratory animals destined for any use other than medical" research.

"In addition, Air France Cargo ensures that all biomedical research involving the use of animals in laboratories with which the airline works is fully in line with current legislation and the regulations drawn up by scientific organizations specializing in animal welfare.

"Air France Cargo refuses transportation if the testing protocols do not conform to these regulations and visits all customers to make sure this is the case. Air France Cargo also monitors the supplier, who must comply with the breeding rules in force."

Goodman countered that the U.S. lab in question, Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories, has been repeatedly fined for violating U.S. animal welfare laws.

He also questioned Air France's claim that it only ships animals to labs for "medical" testing. "SNBL is a contract organization, which means that they test whatever anyone pays them to test, including drugs, chemicals, pesticides and cosmetics," Goodman said. "So unless Air France is asking SNBL for documentation for specifically how each and every monkey is being used at the lab, it is impossible for Air France — and the public — to know whether their policy is being adhered to or not."

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