Virgin Atlantic Cargo has welcomed the latest moves by other airlines to ban the carriage of hunting trophies and says it is now time for the airline cargo industry to adopt a strict ethical cargo policy to clearly identify shipments not acceptable for carriage.
Virgin Atlantic Cargo adopted its own ethical policy over three years ago and says an industry-wide agreement that all airlines would be duty-bound to implement would eliminate shipments such as hunting trophies and endangered species. It would also remove confusion and inconsistency from the market, Virgin says.
The move follows the global furor caused by the recent killing of one of Africa’s most iconic lions known as Cecil. The GPS-tagged lion which was part of a research study was was killed in Zimbabwe by American big-game hunter Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist, an act that went viral on the Internet, sparking international outrage.
That event also drew extra scrutiny to the policies of airlines and shipping companies who ship hunting ‘trophies’ – typically taxidermied heads of the animals – back to the hunters’ home countries. Of the estimated 600 lions that are legally killed in Africa each year, 64 per cent of the trophies end up in the US, according to statistics from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Virgin Atlantic believes the announcement in June by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to reduce illegal trade in wildlife and products that come from animals can now become the catalyst for this much-needed change.
CITES and IATA have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to create a formal framework for their ongoing cooperation on the implementation of standards and best practices such as the IATA Live Animals Regulations, the IATA Perishable Cargo Regulations, and the CITES Guidelines for the Non-Air Transport of Live Wild Animals and Plants. They will also support joint training and communications activities to reduce illegal trade and ensure the safe transport of legally traded wildlife.
Virgin Atlantic Cargo’s ethical cargo policy bans the carriage of cargoes such as hunting trophies, Bluefin tuna and shark fins. The airline also refuses to carry any animals for research purposes including primates and laboratory rats, as well as hatching eggs and day-old chicks, meat or products from Cetaceans and furs and pelts.
John Lloyd, senior VP Cargo at Virgin Atlantic, said: “As part of our ethical cargo policy adopted a number of years ago, we do not carry certain cargoes including hunting trophies, endangered species, shark fins and any animals for research purposes. It’s great to see other carriers adopting similar policies but an industry-wide agreement that all airlines support would be a significant step forward in helping to prevent such shipments.”
Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, Air Canada, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Iberia Airways, IAG Cargo, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qantas, Emirates, Etihad and Lufthansa have all agreed to ban shipments of big-game trophies – some prior to the killing of Cecil the lion and others after.
For the air cargo sector this latest round of ethical introspection follows a massive push over the last couple of years by conservationists to get air cargo carriers – especially Asian carriers – to stop carrying cargos of shark fins, a much prized delicacy amongst many Asians, particularly ethnic-Chinese.