Friday, 18 September 2015

How Cecil the lion is changing airline policy

When Cecil the lion was killed by an American big-game hunter in Zimbabwe in July, the controversy made big waves. As outrage gained momentum on social media, conservation organisations rallied, high-level government officials spoke out, and even late-night chat show hosts made pleas for charity donations on his behalf.

The repercussions of the incident have also been felt by the courier industry, with petitions being sent out to carriers asking for a ban on the transportation of big-game hunting trophies, as a way of trying to deny hunters their prizes.

Last month, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and Air Canada—the big North American airlines—joined a long list of companies who have opted to go ahead with the trophy ban. They are not required by international law, but are doing so seemingly on ethical grounds. They now prohibit the transportation of the "big five": lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo.

Animal cargo - what are the rules?

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) abides by the Live Animals Regulations (LAR) as a global standard for live animal cargo. For carriers, live animals are usually either a prohibited or a restricted item.

UPS is one company that will transport some live animals, but not obviously dangerous animals, such as those that are poisonous or venomous, or pests such as locusts and mosquitoes. Live bees, strangely enough, can be transported as long as they come with the right packaging.

Endangered or threatened animals are protected under the what-it-says-on-the-tin Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 1975, which requires a CITES permit for the transportation of endangered species. But most carriers, including UPS, outright refuse to transport endangered species.

A matter of opinion?

Hunting trophies are a different matter. Airlines are not obligated by international law to prohibit the transport of hunting trophies, even of endangered species. The actual hunting of endangered animals often requires a permit, but can be done legally, and current U.S. law permits the importation of all "big five" animals.

UPS and FedEx are two companies who have not followed the new trend of banning hunting trophies, both stating that they comply with international and U.S. law. UPS' public relations director, Susan Rosenberg, has said that, beyond the law, the ethics of transporting hunting trophies is a matter of opinion and that UPS avoids making judgements.

What do you think? Should all carriers ban hunting trophies? Or should they keep a more hands-off approach?

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(Image credits: Joe Ross, jude_the_obscure, under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.)

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