Daryl Ilbury

Some animals not allowed on board

In Eish! on March 16, 2012 at 10:06 am

"Sorry, m'am, you can't bring that monkey onboard"

For me, science stories are more interesting if they rattle a couple of cages. A case in point is a great story in sciencemag.org by my colleague Lisa Raffensperger about passenger ferry company Stena Lines’ decision not to transport research animals between the UK and Europe.

On the face of it, that may not sound like much of a story, but, as Lisa explains, the decision follows a successful campaign by the National Anti-Vivisection Alliance (NAVA) against the company. The campaign involved sending rather nasty, sometimes openly abusive and threatening, e-mails to employees of Stena Lines.

Now whereas for senior managers of large companies the occasional abusive e-mail comes with the job, they have to weigh up the emotional cost to company when a blanket campaign of abusive and threatening e-mails reaches other staff members who have no part to play in management decisions. Having half your staff booking off sick, claiming emotional distress because they’ve been sent pictures of bunnies with their ears ripped off and the message “This is what you’ve done!”, is not good for business.

In the case of Stena Lines, as with other ferry companies targeted by anti-vivisection reactionaries, namely DFDS and P&O Ferries, they also had to weigh up the potential reputational damage of a media campaign by the anti-vivisectionists versus the income received from moving the actual animals. For them, it just wasn’t worth the risk.

The question that niggles my nasty little mind is this: what’s morally more repugnant – transporting animals on a ferry or threatening (mainly) innocent people with violence because the company they work for transports the animals?

As I said…it rattles the cages.

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