The Department of Transportation (DOT) has been hard at work updating their guidelines with respect to service animals.
New regulations now state that airlines must allow passengers to bring miniature horses on airplanes as service animals. Yes you read that right, the same miniature horses that stand as tall as three feet and weigh up to 250 pounds.
Far be it from me to dictate what and what should not be allowed as a service animal but it seems like the DOT has been working at a cross purpose here. While they have been focused on expanding the types and kinds of animals that are allowed in the main passenger cabin of an airplane, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been quietly waging a pressure campaign to restrict the kinds of animals carried in the cargo hold.
This may seem like a relatively minor matter until you realize that PETA is not trying to restrict zoological animals or family pets from being transported, but critical medical research animals.
At least one major American airline so far has given in to the demands of the so-called “animal rights” lobby. Their decision was not based on any safety concerns for crew, passengers, or the aircraft but instead was reached as the result of hundreds of thousands of emails demanding such a ban and a fear of bad press.
Scores of research, cancer treatment, and medical centers have protested the decision, fearing the loss of a practice that has been an integral part of nearly every major medical advancement for the last hundred years. So far, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
Animal medical research in America is carried out with the highest ethical standards. The tests conducted and the facilities that carry them out are subject to rigorous federal oversight and the supervision of independent third party ethicists. As one of the last steps in the approvals process, several benchmarks must first be met before animal testing, ensuring that there are numerous safeguards in place to support a legitimate research purpose for such a trial.
But ironically while most airlines will fly drugs and vaccinations developed using animal testing, as well as personnel, university researchers, and other supplies needed in the process of developing cures, they refuse to fly the research animals that serve as such a vital part of this process.
Not only has PETA’s campaign threatened public health, it might also be illegal. Existing common carriage laws require that “airlines must carry out their responsibility to provide safe and secure air travel in a non-discriminatory manner.” In layman’s terms, this means service cannot be denied to someone based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, or ancestry. It also means airlines cannot carry one rabbit headed for a zoo and refuse to carry another rabbit merely because it is to be used for medical research. That is the very definition of discrimination.
Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has been one of the most effective cabinet secretaries in the Trump Administration. This is certainly the case when it comes to ensuring that all parties under the purview of the DOT are treated equally. When two airports launched discriminatory attacks against Chick-Fil-A, ostensibly for the personal religious views held by their now deceased founder, she immediately opened an investigation and threatened to pull funding from the offending facilities. She should demonstrate similar leadership when it comes to the transportation of medical research animals by enforcing the existing law on this issue and reminding the airlines that the DOT, not animal rights extremists, sets policy.
Think about your loved ones. Would you want untested medicines used to treat them? For that matter, would any serious minded person truly suggest bypassing animal research and testing unproven medicines on humans?
This is why PETA has avoided a serious policy discussion about ending animal research testing. They know they would lose the debate when Americans realize the consequence of ending animal research is no new medical cures. PETA instead is trying to avoid the argument and shut down medical testing through a series of sneaky, backdoor pressure campaigns. Airlines should refuse to cave to this pressure and the DOT should defend medical innovation by enforcing existing law.
Travis Korson is a veteran of politics with years of experience in campaigns, communications, and public policy. He previously served in the Bush White House and has also spent time at various conservative organizations and government institutions including the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. He is a graduate of the George Washington University where he studied International Affairs with a focus on International Economics. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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