PETA’s extremism harms everyone

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been engaging in a massive pressure campaign which makes ethical medical research required by federal law much more difficult to do.  As a result, if PETA is successful, they could cut off future cures for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, to name only a few.
Here’s what PETA is doing. They have been mounting pressure campaigns to get airlines to refuse to transport medical research animals in the cargo area of passenger flights. By preventing federally mandated and ethically monitored research centers from being able to operate, they are effectively sentencing many people to suffer and even die from terrible diseases.
Let’s put this craziness into context.  While more and more passengers are being allowed to bring comfort pets — dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, peacocks, ducks, roosters, turkeys, and even kangaroos and miniature horses — to travel by their side or at their feet, some airlines are caving to the PETA pressure campaign and refusing to transport animals used in ethical, humane and government required animal testing of medicines for a wide variety of diseases.
Let that sink in.  You can bring all sorts of animals in the main cabin — even animals that may harm other passengers with serious allergies — but PETA wants to prevent animals from flying below the flight deck apparently so that it can shut down vital medical research that is supervised by ethicists and required by federal law.
Regardless of the Airlines policies on comfort animals in the passenger compartment, a ban on research animals carried separately in a plane is unjustified. Moreover, it is illegal for the airlines to discriminate against transportation for research purposes. In fact, public carriers have long been prohibited from discriminating when it comes to transportation. Non discrimination laws for airlines do not simply prevent a carrier from denying a seat to a person based on their race. There are also laws that prevent an airline from transporting animals for zoos, or vacationing passengers, or as comfort animals, or for any reason, and then refusing to transport similar animals to be used in lawful and ethical medical research.
The law is pretty clear —  if the airline is willing to ship one woman’s dog or cat, it must also ship other similar animals being transported for different purposes — including medical research.  And the airlines would have no real basis for objecting because they are paid to transport them, and these animals actually have no impact on their passengers as they would be shipped below the passenger compartment. In fact, passengers wouldn’t even know that medical research animals are on board.
If you seek to understand why airlines give in to this craziness — it is their desire to avoid negative press. They don’t want to look insensitive to anxious passengers so bringing a comfort peacock or kangaroo is okayed. Likewise, they don’t want PETA to call them names in advertising campaigns so they ban carrying research animals — even though the research animals are vital to finding new cures,  a process required by federal law and even though the testing is overseen by independent ethicists.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides thousands of grants each year that rely on animal research, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) typically requires animal testing of new medicines as a matter of law. If the NIH shouldn’t be funding animal research and if animal research is actually a bad idea, the extremists at PETA should go to NIH and the FDA to change the law for the development and approval of new medicines. Of course they won’t do that because then they would get negative press. But these zealots shouldn’t be allowed to mount an underhanded backdoor attack on medical progress and research by targeting airlines.
Airlines win kudos, as they should, for donating flights to tragic cases of children with cancer seeking treatment. But at the same time, when they refuse to transport research animals, airlines make it more and more difficult and expensive to develop the medicines needed to cure these children’s diseases. This is the insanity that PETA stands for.
And it’s not just morally wrong — it is legally wrong. To be clear: PETA is pressuring airlines to violate the law to achieve their extremist goals.
As long as the law requires humane and ethical animal research in the development of new cures and medicines, the Department of Transportation (DOT) should require that the non-discrimination provisions of the law be strictly enforced.  Airlines should not be a political pawn to be pushed around by zealots and militants who threaten carriers with smear campaigns and hope to coerce them into disregarding established law.
Making public policy at the whim of the most extreme elements in our society, endangers every American who could someday need a life-saving cure. And the truth is, we can treat animals humanely and ethically while conducting research and also develop future cures and medicines to save lives — but not if extremists like PETA are allowed to threaten and bully airlines. Hopefully, the DOT will put a stop to this problem by enforcing the law.
(George Landrith is the President and CEO of Frontiers of Freedom — a public policy think tank devoted to promoting a strong national defense, free markets, individual liberty, and constitutionally limited government.)