RAF Steps In After Activists Slow Animal Imports
March 15, 2012

RAF Steps In After Activists Slow Animal Imports

Peter Suciu for Redorbit.com

While it likely won´t go down in the annals of history up there with “their finest hour” moment from the dark days of 1940 when the RAF truly saved the day, the British military may once again have to respond to the call. This week ministers in the UK are urgently trying to broker a deal that would allow the importation of animals for medical testing, and if it can´t be reached they may to rely on Royal Air Force aircraft instead.

Scientists have warned this week that pressure from animal rights activists is seriously reducing the number of animals that are being imported into the UK for research. At present all ferry companies and all but two airlines have now stopped importing animals destined for research labs.

The two sides will likely remain at an impasse.

BBC News notes that former science minister Lord Drayson said that “it is not possible to develop new medicines,” without such research; while animal rights group PETA countered that 90 percent of drugs that passed animal testing later failed when given to humans.

Lord Drayson, in a piece for The Times (and quoted by The Guardian), said that this impasse should be seen as a “red flag” for all sides to come together to deal with a  problem that could have major ramifications on research.

"By giving in to the protesters, they are choking off vital research into debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease and cancer," he wrote.

About 15,000 animals, mostly mice, are shipped to the UK from abroad, and these account for one percent of the animals used in laboratories throughout the UK. Mice are widely used because they have been shown to have particular traits that make them conducive for such fields of study.

While the animals may only make up one percent of the studies, this loss could be substantial to labs.

At present Stena Lines followed DFDS Seaways and P&O Ferries, while the Channel Tunnel has long refused to transport the animals. Likewise, all the UK-based air carriers, including British Airways, announced that they would no longer transform animals destined for a lab.

This leaves ministers in the UK looking at a way to meet the shortfall, and one alternative might be for the RAF to step in and use military aircraft.

Critics of this plan have countered that the military other key functions to carry out, and shouldn´t be used as a shipping company when commercial carriers decide not to transport a product.

However, Lord Willis, chairman of the Association of Medical Research Charities, told The Telegraph that he did understand the decision made the companies involved to withdraw their services on commercial gourds.

“Patients, politicians and the public need to discuss whether we are going to accept a situation where the search for effective treatments is hampered because of the objections of a minority,” Lord Wills told The Telegraph.

So unless the impasse can be overcome, it maybe up to the RAF to take flight. For those hoping for a miracle cure with some new drug, this could be their most worrisome hour.