Air India rolls back decision, will carry live animals for lab tests


Air India (AI) has withdrawn its controversial decision to not fly live animals meant for scientific experiments. It has admitted that the earlier decision had been taken after the carrier was "approached by (animal rights group) PETA", and that it had agreed to not carry animals "in order to avoid adverse publicity which could prove detrimental to the image of Air India".

AI's chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan has now informed Civil Aviation Secretary K N Srivastava that the order has been "subsequently withdrawn", The Indian Express has learnt.

The Sunday Express had reported on October 21 about the August 23 circular issued by the Manager, Cargo (Ops) in Mumbai informing duty managers, departure supervisers and others "that Air India does not carry 'Live Animals for experimental purposes'" within the country or abroad. It sought "strict compliance" with the circular.

AI's decision had enraged the scientific community.

Tests on animals are routine in several disciplines, including basic biology, physiology and drug research. The ban on flying animals would have hit important ongoing research. Scientists were especially upset that AI had acted unilaterally on a matter of such wide-ranging implications. After several top scientists wrote to the government, secretary Srivastava asked AI to explain the circumstances of its decision.

In his reply to Srivastava, AI CMD Nandan has said: "Air India was approached by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), India, and informed about the experiments being conducted on animals. All major airlines like Lufthansa, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Virgin Atlantic etc have implemented a policy of not carrying animals meant for experimental purposes. In order to avoid adverse publicity which could prove detrimental to the image of Air India, a circular was issued to refrain from accepting such cargo."

However, "the same (circular) was subsequently withdrawn and Air India continues to carry live animals for experimental purposes", the letter said.

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