at New Times
UPDATE: On Valentine’s Day 2011, Amerijet ended their involvement in the primate trade with these words, “Amerijet has ceased transporting primates for any and all purposes.”
Last month, we told you about a letter from local animal rights activists to Amerijet, a Fort Lauderdale-based cargo airline, asking the company to shop shipping primates used for research — specifically the ones used for controversial vivisection experiments. Several South Florida groups, including the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, have written to the airline and organized protests outside company headquarters.
Now Amerijet has responded — in the form of a letter written to Nanci Alexander, president of ARFF (and owner of Sublime, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant on Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale).
From their letter, it seems the decisionmakers at Amerijet will not be canceling their monkey flights anytime soon. “We have carefully considered the position taken by our organization,” the letter reads. “However we stand by our decision to transport animals and will continue in the future to serve the needs of our customers for animal transport.”
The company says it will continue the primate shipments because, as the letter states, “to refuse to provide transportation services requested of us does not respect our customers’ right to engage in lawful pursuits and is inconsistent with our values as a company.”
At one point, Amerijet claims that it would “decline to do business with potential customers that are under investigation by governments or other enforcement bodies for failing to meet legal standards or international conventions.” Of course, after several disturbing photos of injured monkeys leaked last year, the USDA announced it would investigate one of Amerijet’s most controversial customers, the South Florida-based research facility Primate Products. But despite the company’s claims, so far it seems Amerijet’s business with Primate Products continues as usual.
The letter also contains a plea for ARFF to condemn some of the tactics used by animals rights activists. Though there are no specific tactics mentioned in the letter, there is an insinuation that some violate national terrorism laws:
“Unfortunately, we believe the tactics that have been engaged in or that are planned for the near future by some individuals or groups that have targeted Amerijet are the sort of animal rights extremist actions that federal laws, including the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are intended to protect law-abiding citizens against — including our employees and customers.”
Representatives from ARFF say they are crafting a letter to respond to Amerijet.
“The number of airlines that continue to transport monkeys for research is shrinking,” says Don Anthony, ARFF’s communications director. “We’re disappointed that Amerijet is determined to be the last American airline to import monkeys to be used in cruel laboratory experiments. The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida will continue to protest Amerijet’s involvement in this cruel trade.”
Sunday night, a few days after receiving the letter, about 30 local activists gathered at the home of one of Amerijet’s executives for a peaceful protest.
This is the Amerijet letter in its entirety:
Dear Ms. Alexander,
Your organization has called upon Amerijet to refuse to transport primates that may be used in research. We have carefully considered the position taken by our organization. However we stand by our decision to transport animals and will continue in the future to serve the needs of our customers for animal transport. We would like to explain briefly the reasons for our decision.
First, we value and respect our customers. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of transportation services for those who have entrusted their shipping needs to us. Just as importantly, we believe in the right of any business or individual to engage in lawful endeavors of their own choosing. To refuse to provide transportation services requested of us does not respect our customers’ right to engage in lawful pursuits and is inconsistent with our values as a company.
At Amerijet we strive to comply with all laws, regulations and international conventions that apply to out business, including those relating to the transportation of live animals. Transporting live animals by air is considered to be the most humane and expedient method of transporting animals over long distances, so long as the laws, rules and conventions applying to animal transport are met.
We expect our customers also to make every effort to meet the legal and international standards that concern the welfare of animals transport. We have in the past declined to do business with costumers who were under investigation by government or other enforcement bodies for violations of law or international conventions. We will continue to transport animals for all lawful purposes. We commit to you, however, that we will make every effort to ensure that we are transporting animals for customers that are in turn complying with all legal requirements concerning the welfare of those animals, and will decline to do business with potential customers that are under investigation by governments or other enforcement bodies for failing to meet legal standards or international conventions.
Finally, we are sharing these thoughts with ARFF because we believe ARFF attempts, as we do here at Amerijet, to be a responsible and lawful corporate citizen. We also believe that ARFF respects that individuals and entities will not always agree and that we each are entitled to hold our own views and opinions without fear of physical harm or damage to property because of those views.
Unfortunately, we believe the tactics that have been engaged in or that are planned for the near future by some individuals or groups that have targeted Amerijet are the sort of animal rights extremist actions that federal laws, including the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, are intended to protect law-abiding citizens against – including our employees and customers. We have made the decision to continue to transport animals after careful consideration, and we will not be deterred by what we consider to be unlawful threats, harassment or intimidation of our employees or customers or acts of vandalism or property damage. Instead, we are prepared to defend our employees, our customers, and our business to the full extent of the law.
You have called upon us to consider our position regarding transporting animals, and we have done so thoughtfully and believe we have responded to you honestly and forthrightly despite our differences of opinion. We now ask you to consider the actions and anticipated actions of individuals and groups that ARFF appears to have aligned itself with against Amerijet. We call upon you to publicly denounce any tactic that may intimidate, harass, or cause fear among our employees or our customers simply because they do not agree with those who hold a contrary view. We look forward to hearing from you.
David G. Bassett
CEO, Amerijet International, Inc.