British Airways accused of breaking U.S. federal law by refusing to carry animals intended for research, in official complaint by biomedical sector

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.”

Further information contact EARA Communications Manager, Bob Tolliday, on +44 (0)20 3675 1245 or +44 (0)7970 132801

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Notes to editors

Most of the medicines we have come from animal research. Often science doesn’t need to use animals, but for many key questions they are crucial. They will help millions with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s disease, spinal cord damage and parasitic infections like malaria. There are three main reasons why animals are used in research:

  • To advance scientific understanding,
  • To develop solutions to medical problems,
  • To test medicines and vaccines in order to protect the safety of people, animals and the environment.

Animals are used when there is a need to find out what happens in the whole living body, which is far more complex than the sum of its parts. It is very difficult, and in most cases simply not yet possible, to develop non-animal methods to replace the use of living animals.

About EARA
The European Animal Research Association (EARA) is an organisation that communicates and advocates on biomedical research using animals and provides accurate, evidence-based information.  It also takes responsibility for the choice and sustainability in the global transport of animals for medical research. It has more than 60 partner organisations, including private and public research bodies, universities, regional and national biomedical associations and suppliers, across 14 European countries.

EARA’s vision is to enhance the understanding and recognition of research involving animals across Europe, allowing for a more constructive dialogue with all stakeholders and a more efficient climate for research in Europe www.eara.eu

About NABR
Founded in 1979, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR) provides the unified voice for the U.S. scientific community on legislative and regulatory matters affecting laboratory animal research. NABR works to safeguard the future of biomedical research on behalf of its more than 350 public and private universities, medical and veterinary schools, teaching hospitals, voluntary health agencies, professional societies, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and other animal research-related firms www.nabr.org