Amerijet, the international cargo shipping corporation headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, is one of the few airlines that still transports research primates, specifically the ones used for controversial vivisection experiments. The company has done business with Primate Products, the South Florida-based research facility where several monkeys were photographed with severe -- possibly fatal -- injuries earlier this year.
Now a local animal rights group is asking Amerijet to stop shipping primates. The organization, SMASH HLS, wrote an open letter to Amerijet executives and plans to demonstrate outside company headquarters on Andrews Avenue later today. They also encourage supporters to call Amerijet and ask executives personally to change their ways.
"This year, Amerijet has shipped everything from paint to batteries to toilets," the letter reads in part. "But unlike most of Amerijet's cargo, transporting monkeys comes with many associated problems. For example, a delayed or re-routed flight can mean death for animals. We know that monkeys have died on past flights from Saint Kitts. Also, the added government scrutiny -- CITES certificates, USFWS inspectors, CDC representatives -- can't be fun to deal with... Any way you look at it, transporting monkeys is a losing business. Does Amerijet really want to be the last American airline to fly monkeys for the research industry?"
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Animal-rights advocates say they will not stop protesting until the company stops moving monkeys.
"These unfortunate animals are destined to be used in painful experiments during which most will die," said Gary Serignese, who organized today's protest. "The bottom line is very simple: Amerijet does not need to be involved in the sick transport of primates. And so long as they are, they will remain a legitimate target of protest for SMASH HLS and others globally. I trust they will soon make the compassionate choice and stop the monkey flights."
This is the letter in its entirety:
We know that you are considering our request to stop transporting non-human primates for the research industry. We also know that you've heard pleas to do nothing from companies that make a lot of money selling monkeys to laboratories. Maybe you've also received a letter from the St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister? (He'll do whatever the owners of the monkey farms ask him to do.)
We've come to the conclusion that appealing to your compassion probably isn't going to work. We could write more about how the vervet monkeys that Amerijet flys from the Caribbean island of Saint Kitts into Miami are captured from the wild. We could write about the horrible fate that awaits these animals once they arrive at a research laboratory. But at the end of the day, whether or not Amerijet continues to transport monkeys for research will be a business decision.
So here's our argument.
Amerijet doesn't need the business.
You can be proud of the fact that Amerijet's customer base is highly diversified. Amerijet's largest customer in 2009 made up only 3% of total revenue. The country outside the U.S. that Amerijet flew to most often in 2009 (Mexico) made up only 7% of revenue. Simply put, Amerijet has a lot of customers in many different places.
In all of 2009, Amerijet accepted only six shipments of monkeys from Saint Kitts (according to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service records). It looks like Amerijet will fly even fewer monkeys into Miami this year.
According to your own numbers, routes that include both Miami and Saint Kitts are among your least profitable. But we're not asking you to stop flying to Saint Kitts. After all, Amerijet has flown to the island for 20 years. Your customers on the island include big corporations, such as Lutron Electronics or the Carib Brewery, as well as small businesses like the Fancy Loaf Bakery, on Pelican Road in Basseterre, or Wall's Deluxe Record Shop on Fort Street. It's clear that even on the small island of Saint Kitts, Amerijet has plenty of customers without having to accept monkeys packed into wooden crates.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2010, Amerijet and its subsidiaries reported revenue of more than $170 million. Refusing to ship monkeys would barely make a noticeable impact.
Amerijet doesn't need the headache.
This year, Amerijet has shipped everything from paint to batteries to toilets. But unlike most of Amerijet's cargo, transporting monkeys comes with many associated problems. For example, a delayed or re-routed flight can mean death for animals. We know that monkeys have died on past flights from Saint Kitts. Also, the added government scrutiny -- CITES certificates, USFWS inspectors, CDC representatives -- can't be fun to deal with. We don't know how much it costs you to hire police to watch over the protests at your Fort Lauderdale headquarters, but it can't be cheap and the protests are not going to stop.
Any way you look at it, transporting monkeys is a losing business. Does Amerijet really want to be the last American airline to fly monkeys for the research industry?
Coalition to Stop the Cruel Primate Trade & Smash HLS