AIREGYPT’s broken vow of not transporting primates to labs

By John Di Leonardo

During my studies in India, I had the pleasure of visiting Shri Digamber Jain Bada Mandir, an ancient Jain temple in Hastinapur – a holy city mentioned not only in Jain texts but also described in the Mahabharata and the Puranas as the capital of the Kuru Kingdom. In Sanskrit, Hastinapura translates to ‘the City of Elephants’, however, anyone who has visited Hastinapur knows that the city might just as easily be described as the city of monkeys. Surrounded by forest, Hastinapur is frequented by more curious macaques than even tourists or scholars annually. Watching mother macaques nurse their babies, adolescent macaques run and play, and father – or grandfather – macaques watching vigilantly over their families, was a highlight of my time not only in Hastinapur but also at Shri Hanuman Mandir in Delhi; So, when I got a call from PETA that EGYPTAIR was shipping more than 500 macaques destined for laboratory experimentation to JFK International Airport this past weekend, I was horrified. 

 

Following a protest outside JFK on Saturday, my partner Juliana and I documented the unloading of 540 long-tailed macaques—listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature—into trucks belonging to one of two USA importers – BC US, LLC (a Bioculture related company in Florida) or LC Preclinical (a contract testing facility in Pennsylvania). The primates were reportedly shipped from Mauritius, an island nation more than 9,000 miles away, despite a current outbreak of Tuberculosis—a highly infectious mycobacterial disease that monkeys can and have transmitted to humans—on the island. 

 

Monkeys in Mauritius are often abducted from forests or bred on squalid farms. Those who survive illness and injury are packed into small crates and locked inside EGYPTAIR’s dark cargo holds on the first part of their days-long journey before they’re trucked to laboratories where they’ll be poisoned, mutilated, and killed. Last year, the USDA cited EGYPTAIR for poor handling and inadequate ventilation and enclosures after a kitten being transported as checked baggage from Cairo to JFK arrived dead. The crate holding the kitten had been covered in solid plastic wrap, preventing airflow. She had not been given any food or water for the 11-hour flight, and her legs, chest, and muzzle were covered with urine. Since March 2022, EGYPTAIR has transported as many as 5,000 macaques to the U.S.—we don’t know whether they all survived and can only imagine the conditions they endured. 

 

Nearly every major airline has now vowed not to transport monkeys to laboratories, with one of the last holdouts, Kenya Airways, ending this practice after a truck transporting 100 long-tailed macaques—who had been flown by Kenya Airways from Mauritius to JFK—collided with another vehicle earlier this year. Several monkeys escaped, and three were shot dead. People who stopped to survey the scene of the accident interacted with the monkeys, and at least one reported symptoms of illness afterward. 

 

EGYPTAIR announced last year that in view of its support of “the vision and mission” of animal protection organizations, it would no longer transport monkeys to laboratories, however, the company’s promise seems to have been all a lie. For this week’s Anuvrat, I invite you to contact EGYPTAIR and urge them to honor their vow to never again ship primates to their deaths for wasteful and cruel experimentation. Please write to:  

Ahmed Shaheen
Chair, EGYPTAIR Cargo
[email protected] 

Tarek Adawy
Chief Executive, U.S. and Canada
EGYPTAIR
[email protected] 

EGYPTAIR Cargo Manager, JFK
[email protected] 

 

John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].  

Image courtesy of Provided

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