Thousands of monkeys used for testing transported through Iceland and Belgium

Thousands of monkeys used for testing transported through Iceland and Belgium

Bluebird Nordic, an airline from Iceland, has been involved in the controversial transport of thousands of monkeys. The long-tailed macaques are sent from Asia to laboratories in Europe, the UK and USA so researchers can conduct tests on them.

Lisa Jones-Engel, a scientific advisor at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), told the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service RÚV that she was surprised at an Icelandic airline’s involvement in transporting monkeys from Asia. Many airlines, including Air France, have stopped transporting these monkeys due to ethical concerns. 

Bluebird Nordic has conducted at least sixteen trips to Mauritius, Vietnam, and Cambodia to transport these animals to Western countries. Jones-Engel noted that many of these monkeys were captured in the wild.

According to animal welfare organization Abolición Vivisección, around 5,000 monkeys were transported in just seven of these flights. The conditions of transport, involving lengthy flights and several stopovers, have also been a source of worry regarding the animals’ welfare.

One journey started on October 16 in Mauritius, transiting through Saudi Arabia, Belgium, Iceland, and finally the United States. The trip took 43 hours from take-off to the destination. Another voyage from Vietnam to the United States included layovers in India, Georgia, and Iceland, lasting over 32 hours.

Reports from Abolición Vivisección indicate that the animals might not have received adequate care en route. They were not given sufficient food and water.

Icelandic regulations contain strict guidelines for animal transport, aiming to prevent fear, injury, or suffering. These regulations have been violated in these monkey transport cases by Bluebird Nordic.

Monkeys through Belgium

Following RÚV’s investigation, Bluebird Nordic reportedly ended its monkey transportation activities. Subsequently, SkyTaxi, a Polish airline, seems to have taken over, transporting long-tailed macaques for global laboratory use.

Since Air France terminated monkey transport, Brussels Airport has emerged as a primary entry point for these long-tailed macaques into the EU and the UK and as a transit hub for some flights to the USA.

Since mid-2023, thousands of monkeys have arrived at Brussels Airport in small wooden crates, Abolición Vivisección said.

Abolición Vivisección, Monkey Massacre Mauritius, Cheshire Animal Rights Campaigns, and the Animal Welfare Party are calling on SkyTaxi and Brussels Airport to end their involvement in the laboratory monkey trade.

Next pandemic

Jones-Engel, who previously conducted laboratory experiments on monkeys, became disgusted due to their mistreatment and the scientific community’s indifference. Many animals arrived at their destinations ill, carrying diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, salmonella, and viruses similar to Ebola.

“You name it. These animals had it,” Jones-Engel remarked to RÚV. There are concerns that the next pandemic could emerge from these globally transported animals.

“This is not hypothetical,” Jones-Engel emphasized. “We consider them bioterrorism weapons. These pathogens are shed in the urine and in the feces and in the saliva and through respiratory droplets.”

Last year, several European countries reported tuberculosis outbreaks linked to a single transport of long-tailed macaques from Vietnam to Hartelust, a Dutch laboratory animal supplier.

Long-tailed macaques are listed as endangered on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

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