CTA Upholds Air Canada’s Refusal to Ship Monkeys

After a long legal battle, the Canadian Transportation Agency (“CTA”) on December 20, 2012, upheld Air Canada’s decision to stop transporting non-human primates destined for research and experimentation.


In 2011, it came to the public’s attention that Air Canada was shipping Chinese-bred non-human primates to Canada to be used for research and experimentation. Concerns relating to the inhumane breeding and shipping conditions sparked public pressure on Air Canada to join other leading international airlines by discontinuing the practice.

Air Canada responded by stating that they were legally obliged by a 1998 CTA ruling to ship animals destined for research and experimentation. Contrary to this belief, Animal Justice Canada provided Air Canada with a legal opinion regarding their authority to amend their Domestic and International Cargo Tariffs (“Tariffs”), and discontinue the contentious practice.

In November 2011, Air Canada revised its Tariffs, only to have its implementation suspended while the amendments were reviewed by the CTA. The review was spurred by industry complaints questioning the legality of Air Canada’s refusal to ship animals destined for research.

Legal Authority and the CTA’s Decision

Carriers such as Air Canada are not legally obliged to carry all types of cargo; however, the carrier’s decisions must comply with the conditions set out in their tariffs, which must be drafted in accordance with the Canadian Transportation Act, SC 1996, c 10 and the Air Transportation Regulations, SOR/88-58.

The complaints challenging Air Canada’s Tariff, alleged that the Tariffs were “unreasonable or unduly discriminatory” and “unjust, unreasonable and unjustly discriminatory”, contrary to the Act and Regulations.

In dismissing the complaints against Air Canada, and rescinding the suspension of the Tariff revisions, the CTA concluded that Air Canada’s decision to stop transporting non-human primates for research purposes is an appropriate business decision. Specifically, the CTA concluded that Air Canada’s proposed Tariff revisions are supported by statute and are not discriminatory, as they do not differentiate between shippers on specific characteristics of any shipper. In addition, the CTA found that the amended Tariffs do not subject the shippers to any undue or unreasonable prejudice, within the meaning of the Regulations.

Continuing Reality

Despite this legal victory and advances in modern technology, non-human primates are still being bred in Canada strictly for research purposes. Furthermore, the Animals for Research Act, RSO 1990, c A.22 provides registered research facilities with priority access to stray animals in pounds across Ontario. Similar legislation also exists in other Provinces. Adoptable companion animals, as well as sick animals that would otherwise be humanely euthanized, are all too frequently delivered up to the hands of researchers and become subjects of cruel and unnecessary suffering.

Written by Zeynep Husrevoglu, BA, LLB – Articling Student