The skies are getting friendlier for our fellow primates, now that all major airlines but one have banned shipments of monkeys destined for laboratories in the EU, the US and elsewhere. As a result, owners of primate prisons everywhere are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their ghastly cages with animals to poison, cut into and kill in experiments.
Following a successful PETA campaign that convinced China Southern Airlines to stop shipping primates to testing facilities, Air France is now the only commercial airline in the world that still chooses to profit from the heinous practice.
Most passengers aboard Air France flights probably have no idea that in the cargo holds right beneath their feet could huddle dozens of terrified monkeys locked in small boxes and headed for nightmarish laboratories or that their ticket supported a company that is knowingly delivering these unfortunate primate passengers to laboratories where primates are violently force-fed chemicals, inflicted with brain damage, crippled, addicted to cocaine or alcohol, deprived of food and water, or psychologically tormented and ultimately killed.
In 2012, more than 1,500 monkeys from China, Mauritius and Vietnam - most flown by Air France - were imported into the UK to be used in laboratories. As the world's foremost primate expert, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, recently explained in a letter of protest to Air France CEO Alexandre de Juniac:
Once Air France delivers these monkeys to laboratories on long and terrifying flights, they are deprived of everything meaningful and necessary for them to be happy. In most cases, they are confined by themselves to small, desolate cages. They are denied physical contact with other monkeys. The only time they are removed from their cages is when someone is coming to subject them to a distressing or painful procedure. As would be the case in humans, this treatment leaves them desperately lonely, traumatised and psychologically damaged. They often rock, spin, cry out and even self-mutilate.
Indeed, sociable, intelligent primates can be forced to endure a lifetime of social isolation and virtually any experiment, no matter how painful or trivial - even if superior alternatives are available - as long as paperwork describing the abuse accurately is filed with the Home Office.
With a historically steady supply of monkeys available, this archaic practice continues, despite the immense physical and psychological suffering that we now know primates experience in laboratories and the fact that there are more effective and humane ways to conduct experiments.
The US Food and Drug Administration has reported that nine out of 10 drugs that are safe and effective in animals either don't work in humans or actually cause harm. Last year, for example, human trials of an experimental HIV vaccine - which were expanded because of "successful" experiments in monkeys - had to be halted when it was discovered that the vaccine did not in fact prevent HIV infection. Indeed, all of the nearly 90 preventive HIV vaccines that have made it to human clinical trials have failed, despite working in primates. The fact that Harvard University decided to close its embattled primate laboratory is a good indicator that the prestigious institution doesn't see experiments on primates as playing a role in the future of science.
The world's most forward-thinking scientists have moved on to develop and use humane methods for studying diseases and testing products that replace animals and are truly relevant to human health. These modern methods include sophisticated tests using human cells and tissues, advanced computer-modelling techniques and research with human volunteers. Studies have repeatedly shown that these modern techniques replicate human physiology, diseases and drug responses better than crude experiments on primates and other animals do and are also usually cheaper and faster.
While experimenters have unfortunately demonstrated that they won't voluntarily stop tormenting primates, even though it is unethical and ineffective and a growing segment of the public, which funds the work, opposes it, airlines can't ignore the views of their customers. They've shown that they don't need or want to be involved in this bloodshed, and they're helping to keep monkeys out of deadly laboratories and in the wild with their friends and families - where they belong. All airlines but one, that is.