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Animal Rights and Wrongs.com, along with my other blog: animalrightsandwrongs.uk. are predominately animal welfare focused websites and have over 150 articles on pet-keeping, animal welfare, rights and law issues. Read more articles on the main site by using this link: Animal Rights & Wrongs UK

FEATURED POSTS FROM ANIMAL RIGHTS & WRONGS UK


Friday, 1 October 2021

Massacre of the monkeys.


Massacre of the monkeys.
Dejected and confused young baboons just released from their cramped crates receiving rest and comfort at Heathrow's quarantine station before their onward flight to America destined for research. [Photo: 1980 John Brookland]

The Monkey run.

Hundreds of thousands of research monkeys and baboons passed through Heathrow Airport between the Second World War and the 1980’s mainly destined for research. It was dubbed as the massacre of the monkeys by the media. The trade was colloquially known as the "monkey run". They were mainly destined for polio, infantile paralysis research and rocket tests. Some cynics suggested that the monkeys met a better death by suffocation than they would have done had they reached their destination.

During this period on average 10,000 monkeys passed through each week in shipments of up to 1,600 mostly from India and Africa but also South East Asia and South America. Most were heading for North America and Europe although many were imported into the U.K. In the fifties and sixties there were also specially chartered flights arriving at airports across the country full of monkey shipments. Some of them managed to escape causing media headlines.

Massacre of the monkeys.

On New Year’s day 1955, 457 Rhesus monkeys were left in an unventilated British Overseas Airways Corporation (B.O.A.C) van for three hours on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport awaiting loading onto an aircraft. When the back door was opened 394 had suffocated to death. It was dubbed by the media as the massacre of the monkeys. Another 1000 sitting in two ventilated vans survived.

Although a deplorable incident, it was unfortunately not an isolated one as it was a regular occurrence. Dozens of incidents over the decades made headline national news, but no serious action was ever taken. Thousands continued to suffer or die during capture and holding, then on their way to Heathrow, more on the onward journey and of course few survived the research done on them.

RSPCA open a hostel to deal with the carnage.

Because of the carnage occurring at Heathrow, the world's main transit hubs at the time, particularly with primates and birds, the RSPCA opened a facility in 1953 to temporarily give them respite and care while they transited or were delayed. Over the next few decades, the staff were to witness regular weekly horror shows and helped and comforted these frightened, stressed and pitiful monkeys. Pulling out dead and dying monkeys and new-born babies or aborted fetuses would often reduce them to tears.

Massacre of the monkeys.
Dead squirrel monkeys. Thousands of monkeys died during transport and it was distressing, hard work and a mental strain on the staff to have to continually deal with abused, dead and dying animals. [Photo: John Brookland 1979].

I unfortunately experienced these tragedies in the 70’s and 80’s as an animal inspector and manager of the then Animal Quarantine Station that took over from the RSPCA. What upset me most was the look of despair, hopelessness and fear on their little faces and their dejected demeanour. Even more sadly they would often put their hands through the wire for reassurance which was heart-breaking.

Investigations always promised but nothing ever changed.

After each tragic and fatal incident, the airlines, government authorities, shippers and importers promised investigations and inquiries into the trade, but nothing came from them or changed. Despite assurances from the RSPCA and airlines that the standards of crating were improving and mortality diminishing the deaths continued.  It was never going to change because shippers were only interested in keeping cargo costs to the minimum and the carriers did not want to lose money by refusing trade. The airports realised that if they intervened the shippers would avoid Heathrow and route them elsewhere.

Massacre of the monkeys.
It was heart-breaking when they put their hands out for food and reassurance. Staff care for a shipment at Heathrow's quarantine station in 1982 before their onward flight. [Photo: John Brookland]

And it was not just by air. The fifties were a cross over time when animal shippers were moving from sea transport to aircraft, but monkey shipments were still suffering on board ships. In September 1959, 300 monkeys left Singapore on what was called a “horror voyage” to London onboard a Ben Line Steamer, and 120 were found dead when they arrived at the docks. Large adults, youngsters and pregnant females had all been crammed together in crates and fought over food killing each other. Again, they were removed to the airport hostel where one RSPCA girl stated to the media that “it was a terrible sight. I shall forget it for as long as I live”. The monkeys then had to face another voyage to Rotterdam and their destination.

Monkeys are still shipped round the world for research.

Even today more than 80 years after it all started, primates are still being airlifted around the world. The numbers may be much smaller and most are captive they still must suffer the stress of transportation. Welfare organisations still plead with airlines to stop carrying them. They have had some success with many having placed a ban on their carriage.

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A book chronicling the cruelty and suffering caused to animals passing through Heathrow Airport in 1970/80s with graphic images and Foreword by Sir Peter Scott.



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Thursday, 23 September 2021

Geronimo the alpaca deserved a more dignified end.

 

The 4 year campaign to save Geronimo's life in the U.K. ended in an unsightly scrum.

The whole tragic and acrimonious tale of the euthanasia of Geronimo the alleged TB suffering alpaca lasted four years. It involved court cases and appeals, a 140,000 petition, a demonstration to Downing Street and appeals direct to Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister. Campaigners camped outside the farm reminiscent of the days of the nuclear protests and the story was covered worldwide.

Unfortunately, it ended in distasteful and unacceptable scenes when the poor animal had to be forcibly removed from his farm. Unpalatable as it may have been, Geronimo’s fate was always going to be irrevocable and it should have been everybody’s priority to make his last moments as calm and peaceful as possible. But this did not happen

A media and campaigner scrum.

There was so much wrong on both sides of the fence during his final hours and unforgivably it turned into a scrum which caused considerable stress, anxiety and upset to poor Geronimo. Noisy supporters and demonstrators vented their frustration and emotions and jostled with the media photographers. There were scenes of paparazzi type photographers chasing after the trailer, jumping up to get their last photos as is often seen with prison vans outside courthouses.

This melee unnecessarily forced a Police cordon to be present to protect the government vets trying to lead Geronimo away. Not surprisingly Geronimo reacted to the close proximity of all these uniformed officers and the commotion surrounding him. Accusations by supporters of the government vets mishandling and causing Geronimo distress appear slightly hypocritical and shouts of “call yourself vets” were uncalled for and unhelpful. They were accused of being murderers, executioners, torturers and slaughterers. I am sure the vets and Geronimo would have preferred a more civilised exit.

Geronimo being led away by government veterinarians for euthanasia
Geronimo could have done without the melee surrounding his departure.

Geronimo could have been given a more peaceful and respectful end to his life.

It could have been such a different story. Geronimo could have been given the opportunity for a quiet and humane euthanasia in his stable surrounded by people he knew to calm him during his final moments as we would do with our precious pet dog or cat. Or the owner could have done more to keep the circus away and allowed the vet to calmly lead Geronimo to the trailer or even to have done it herself although this would of course have been upsetting.

Well-meaning supporters allowed their emotions to get the better of them.

The well-meaning people present when he was removed from the farm did the poor animal no favours. They allowed their emotions to get the better of them and they lost sight of the wellbeing of the animal they were supposedly so concerned about. They should have put Geronimo’s best interests first by being more respectful.

The whole episode was tragic and although I applaud the concerted efforts of his supporters to save his life, their actions in his final hours just made his death more distressing and pitiful. If Geronimo had been my pet I would have also have fought to save him, but I would have hated to see the life of an animal of mine end in such circumstances.

Geronimo imported from New Zealand for stud.

Although all the coverage portrayed Geronimo as a beloved pet, he was also an expensive stud animal imported from New Zealand to improve the gene line on the alpaca breeding farm which had apparently operated for 15 years. There are hundreds of thousands of them in New Zealand and Australia bred to slaughter for meat.

He was also one of 45,000 alpacas and other camelids in the U.K. involved in the burgeoning breeding and farming of them for their fleece and their meat. As such they are treated as livestock and subject to TB checks. Unfortunately he was was found to be positive in two blood tests although this has always been contested.

Alpacas are killed daily in the U.K.

In 2020, 205 alpacas and other camelids were culled due to TB and over 28,000 cattle and dairy cows along with countless badgers because of the threat of this contagious disease. Their fate goes mainly unnoticed.

As does the fact that in the UK more alpacas are slaughtered each year for their meat, and because they are either unsuitable for breeding or their fleeces are degrading. There are also large numbers of unwanted and abandoned alpacas each year which has resulted in Alpaca rescues having to be set up.

Realistically we should be attempting to stop the keeping of alpacas, llamas and camels in the U.K. so that this kind of incident need not arise.

He was euthanised on Tuesday 31 August 2021.

RIP Geronimo another victim of our passion for exotic meats and clothing.


Olympic Games horse cruelty no surprise

 Cruelty in equestrian sports

No reason to involve horses in Modern Heptathlon.

Olympic games horse cruelty should be no surprise as it is nothing new. A decade ago, there was a furore over cruel practices inthe dressage event. This time it was the show jumping section of the modern pentathlon which raised concerns and rightly so. It is not exactly an equestrian sport per se, but a cobbled together event of outdoorsy type sports of swimming, fencing, running and shooting which some misguided person decided unnecessarily add show jumping.

What makes the show jumping portion of the event contentious is the way it is organised which is a recipe for ill treatment of the horse. Competitors are only given 20 minutes to bond with totally unfamiliar horses which are drawn by lot. They are taken round the course several times by different riders.  Those involved are not necessarily the elite as owners of expensive well-trained and experienced horses are obviously reluctant to hire them out for such stress and risk of injury. The competitors who are accomplished in a wide variety of sports are not necessarily competent or experienced riders.

Told to hit "it" by trainer.

The incident at the centre of the furore this time involved a horse named Saint Boy ridden at the time by German rider Annika Schleu who was tipped for a medal. Saint Boy was not keen to enter the course with her, refused to jump, bucked, was sweating and was allegedly upset. Annika obviously became frustrated and stressed at seeing her medal hopes disappearing which resulted in her shouting and weeping which couldn’t have helped the demeanour of Sant Boy. 

She was urged to use her crop by her trainer, Kim Raisner, who was heard to shout  in the empty arena: “Go on, go on hit it”. This remark of using “it” rather than “him” is telling and expresses how the horse was viewed. The trainer Kim Raisner later allegedly hit the horse and was suspended by the governing body the International Modern Pentathlon Union  for “appearing to strike the horse Saint Soy with her fist”.

Should Be of Concern to all equestrians.

What was surprising is that the trainer involved thought it acceptable and reasonable to punch the horse in full view of onlookers.  But the equestrian industry has a habit of turning a blind eye to equine sports that obviously cause suffering , injury and death as in the case of endurance racing, Grand National, cross country and dressage to name a few. Forcing horses to jump when they obviously do not want to, using the crop whip excessively, and having riders shouting, weeping and breaking down is not really the best way to behave. It all seems rather unsavoury and surely any reasonable person or experienced equestrian with a love of horses must watch this awful spectacle with great concern.

Although it is argued that all the criticism and hate directed at the rider and trainer following the incident was overblown and no harm was caused by striking the horse, it is the attitude and intent of those involved that should be the worry. Striking out at a horse either verbally or physically through frustration is a telling indication of how the animal is viewed. When things do not go right or as expected in the search for success and glory the frustration leads to the horse just becoming a piece of equipment to vent this anger. No different to a tennis player smashing a racket or a batsman their bat.  It makes one wonder what goes on behind the scenes when they are willing to openly indulge in such actions.

The is no reason for horses to be involved. It is a human’s choice to push their bodies to the limit and risk injury or death in their search for glory and self-satisfaction and their pursuit of this should not involve animals. The welfare of the animals must take precedence over winning medals. The modern pentathlon should not involve horses in the first place and let’s face it there is an easy solution by replacing them with rock climbing or mountain biking.