United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz sent a letter via email to United’s customers thanking America for the financial assistance that will help the airlines survive while air travel is on virtual lockdown. He also informed the reader that many of United’s planes “have been repurposed to deliver vital medical supplies and goods to some of the places that need it most.”
I applaud United Airlines and all the other airlines that are helping America in this time of dire need. But let me suggest the most important thing that United and Munoz could do, but have not yet done in response to the Coronavirus crisis: reverse their counterproductive refusal to transport medical research animals to medical research facilities.
Some time ago, United caved to a political pressure campaign launched by extremists and as a result, stopped transporting medical research animals to research facilities.
Now more than ever, we need that research to move forward without delay and without obstruction. Dr. Anthony Fauci, now famous for his leading role in America’s fight against COVID-19, has emphasized the importance of animal research in finding safe and reliable cures and vaccines. Fauci has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, and has overseen research to prevent infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, Ebola, Zika, and now the Chinese coronavirus.
Fauci recently said: “[S]afety is something I want to make sure the American public understands. . . . Does the vaccine make you worse [or does it provide a cure]? You can get a good feel for that in animal [research].”
Fauci makes an important point—science, medical ethics, and human decency require animal testing for safety so that in our attempt to help, we don’t accidentally make things worse. But a pressure campaign now endangers our ability to conduct vital research. And there is no time to lose with delays or obstructions.
United Airlines’ capitulation to an extremist pressure campaign is odd for three reasons. First, it harms America. That is now obvious. Second, it harms United Airlines because airlines are paid well for such travel and it does not inconvenience their human passengers because the animals are transported safely and ethically below the passenger cabin. This isn’t at all like a human passenger bringing his emotional support pony on board. Nor is it like forcing someone who has life-threatening asthma or other allergies to sit next to a comfort dog or cat.
Third, Munoz himself is the beneficiary of animal medical research as he has had a heart transplant—a medical procedure made possible because of animal research—and required anti-rejection drugs, which were also made possible by animal medical research. Nonetheless, United and Munoz caved because they wanted to avoid a relentless extremist social media campaign smearing them.
Who is trying to shut down legitimate and federally mandated medical research? The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, of course. If PETA’s political agenda actually reflected what their name suggests, who would oppose them? But sadly, the group is not really in favor of the ethical or decent treatment of animals.
In Virginia, for example, PETA activists were charged with criminal animal abuse. Animals that were intended for adoptions were abused and killed in 95.3 percent of the cases—for an entire decade!
And PETA’s interest in humans is even less zealous than their interest in animals. PETA’s president and co-founder, Ingrid Newkirk, admitted: “Even if animal research resulted in a cure for AIDS [or, we have to assume, COVID-19, or cancer or other horrible diseases], we’d be against it.”
PETA’s supporters have filed comments with the Department of Transportation to shut down animal medical research by blocking their transportation. One comment said: “Stop experimenting on animals. Experiment on your children and mothers instead.” Then the commenter called those who reject the idea of mothers and children being used in medical testing “a bunch of barbarians.”
Let that sink in for a moment.
Whether you’re talking about human lives or animal lives, PETA cannot be trusted. Sadly, United Airlines and Munoz have fallen prey to PETA’s attacks. It is time for Munoz to reverse that policy and immediately start helping America find cures and vaccines by once again transporting medical research animals.
Perhaps to some, before the COVID-19 outbreak, PETA’s agenda may have seemed innocuous. But now that we are in a race against time to find cures and vaccines, PETA’s agenda is laid bare as inhumane and dangerous.
Whether it is COVID-19, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, or anything else, the truth is we are always in a race against time for someone. People suffer and die when cures and treatments are delayed. Why would PETA work to delay those cures? And why would any responsible airline ever cooperate with PETA in suppressing vitally important medical research? As Fauci said, we need animal research to insure that any cure or vaccine actually works and is safe.
Given that Americans have just provided billions in financial relief to the airlines, it isn’t too much to ask that the airlines help those doctors and scientists working to find cures by not succumbing to PETA’s pressure campaign.
United Airlines has a decision to make: either side with political extremists who care neither for animals nor humans, or side with Fauci, science, medical ethics, human decency, and all who will benefit from future cures, treatments, and vaccines.
It is time for Munoz to reverse his earlier decision and to once again let United Airlines transport medical research animals. Americans are watching. His answer matters.