Animal Rights Activists Frighten Airline Into Monkey Ban

Respect and gratitude to the monkey lovers at the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) for ensuring that humanity will enjoy the company of AIDS, blindness, and hepatitis a little while longer.

These are just three of the maladies under investigation by scientists who use nonhuman primates in their research -- a practice that ARFF apparently regards as more appalling than AIDS, blindness, and hepatitis combined. Which is why it rallied its troops last week to protest the shipping of African green monkeys to Florida by IBC Airways, sufficiently scaring the higher-ups at that company that, by Friday, they'd promised to never ship monkeys for research purposes again.

ARFF was mobilized by a tip from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), which had itself received a tip that IBC was about to transport the monkeys from St. Kitts, in the lesser Antilles, to Miami, where they would be press-ganged into who-knows-what kind of experiments -- either ARFF doesn't know or doesn't want to say. If these monkeys had been conscripted to combat AIDS/hep/blindness, perhaps ARFF worries that saying so would undermine whatever sympathy one might naturally feel for their mission.

BUAV insists that performing medical tests on animals is unnecessary anyway -- that equally valid testing may be performed in cell cultures, say, or via computer modeling. Which may be true one day. It isn't true now. Otherwise, scientists would do it. Monkeys are expensive, and their use requires a scientist to plow through prohibitively huge amounts of paperwork. Nobody would use them if it weren't necessary. (Unless they really, really hated monkeys.) BUAV's arguments to the contrary sound depressingly like those of yesteryear's most ardent pro-lifers, who insisted that adult stem cells were just as good and medically useful as embryonic ones. Which they weren't. Seldom does messy reality mimic so conveniently one's vision of a friendlier world.

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