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U.K. Vivisection Slows as Shipping Companies Get Cold Feet

Growing pressure from animal protection groups in the U.K. has persuaded airlines and other shipping companies that it’s not worth their while to be involved in the trafficking of animals for vivisection.

British Airways has joined several other ferry companies and airlines in refusing to carry mice, rats and rabbits intended for laboratory testing. The Channel Tunnel has long refused to allow any animals for medical research to be transported. Now only foreign airlines still carry these animals into Britain.

Scientists who experiment on animals are crying foul and warning that “vital research” into deadly diseases will be hindered.

“Medical research will wither in our universities and, as a result, more people will suffer and die,” Paul Drayson, a former science minister, wrote in The Times newspaper. He called for the government to step in and oppose the anti-vivisection groups.

The transportation companies say it wasn’t worth the bad publicity to go on bringing these animals into the country.

“There was a sustained social media campaign against the company that blocked out email use for the entire board,” said Michelle Ulyatt of P & O Ferries. “There were no direct threats, but we were put under enormous pressure and didn’t want the situation to escalate.”

Current U.K. science minister David Willetts said the British government is working to draft a code of conduct on how to import laboratory animals. He added that animals might have to be brought in by British military aircraft and ships.

But the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection intends to keep up the pressure. “Animal experiments are conducted in conditions of great secrecy, but the public is not fooled,” said Michelle Thew, chief executive of BUAV. They understand the massive suffering which is involved.”