On New Years' Day 1955, 394 Rhesus macaque were found dead at London Airport. The animals were part of a consignment of 1600 monkeys travelling from Delhi to New York. Having been unloaded from their Delhi flight, they had been placed in a van to be transferred to the next leg of their trip. But the plane to New York hadn't been ready for loading. The driver had removed the van to what the subsequent RSPCA-led investigation called 'a sheltered location' to await embarkation. The vehicle, however, was unventilated. Crowded into their temporary container, the monkeys had died from suffocation as they waited out the delay.

The tragedy caused a minor storm of protest from anti-vivisection groups and animal welfare organizations. The RSPCA report found 'neither deliberate neglect nor any calculated act of cruelty' on the part of airport operatives, and noted that the British Overseas Airways Corporation personnel responsible had used an unventilated van 'because it allowed the monkeys to keep warm.' Nevertheless, newspaper reports emphasised that the animals had been kept in small cages in cold weather for around three hours, and that other consignments had used ventilated vans. The intimation that the deaths were a result of neglect rather than ignorance seemed to many unavoidable.

More generally, reports of these deaths highlighted a new trend in animal air transport. As discussed in the first part of this series, the RSPCA's Chief Veterinarian, Major Reginald Hancock, chiefly had domestic and domesticated beasts in mind when he set out his designs for a new building to host and care for animals in transit through London. Though he envisaged large animals such as elephants and even giraffes passing through from time to time, he had assumed that most arrivals would be cats, dogs and birds (along with some cattle), and provided space for these accordingly. Yet the mid-1950s had seen a rapid increase in the volume of originally forest-dwelling monkeys travelling in the cargo holds of planes. Most of these were Rhesus, many being transported via London from their natural habitats in India to their most frequent eventual destination of the United States. This new trade was driven not by zoos, nor by a sudden fashion for exotic pets, but rather a new, much-heralded medical breakthrough: they were needed in large numbers to ensure the safety of the just-developed Polio vaccine.

Quite apart from debates regarding the use of animals as experimental subjects, the burgeoning trade in monkeys placed unexpected strains on both the capacity of the London Hostel, and the place the Hostel occupied within the RSPCA. Hancock had envisaged that the building would operate as a local example of 'best practice' that might be extended to all (or at least all UK) airports. He had thereby cultivated close relationships with government officials, especially at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. By providing statistics on the number and types of animal seen at the airport, as well as informal advice regarding loading, unloading, and container and aircraft hold design to the state-owned BOAC, he sought to demonstrate the advantages of including a ward of animal welfare such as the RSPCA in routine airport life. At the same time, he tried to lever the Society's newfound expertise in the effects of air transit to agitate for the improvement of conditions for animals, both on board and prior to loading. Shortly after news of the Rhesus deaths broke, he forwarded to government officials a list of nine proposals designed to severely reduce such incidents. These included mandatory issuance of veterinary certificates of good health at airports of origin, the definition of minimal requirements for cages, guarantees regarding conditions on board, and a total ban on the carriage of wild-caught animals.

Perhaps surprisingly given Hancock's initially close relationship with Ministry officials, almost all of his proposals met with categorical dismissal. This was ameliorated by an official visage of polite engagement with the RSPCA's ideas. In early 1956 Ministry of Agriculture representatives explained that they had contacted their counterparts in the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation, Ministry of Health, and even the Commonwealth Relations Office with a view to addressing all of the issues raised at an official meeting with the RSPCA. Yet before this event could take place, civil servants also met privately to decide on a collective approach. At this latter meeting, a Ministry of Transport representative argued that the RSPCA's requests were merely the result of 'one isolated incident (that of the death of some monkeys at London Airport),' for which he suggested the Society themselves 'were not without responsibility.' He was he indicated 'most reluctant' to impose 'any further paper work... on air transport undertakings.' The Ministry of Agriculture's Chief Veterinary Officer's expressed the view that 'there appeared to be no point whatever in making new regulations.' Summing up the civil service consensus, the meeting Chairman concluded that far from having any claim to direct government policy, the RSPCA 'should be required to explain why regulations were necessary.' Needless to say, subsequent formal discussion between government officials and the Society did not result in adoption of Hancock's proposals: even the few minor concessions made foundered in the face of governmental disinterest.

One reason for civil servants' apparent change of heart regarding their relationship with the RSPCA was the emergence of a rival forum for the regulation of animal conditions during flight. Since the sudden emergence of the Rhesus trade, organizations such as the Medical Research Council, the Physiological Society, the British Pharmacological Society and the Research Defence Society had also come to concern themselves with the conditions of animals arriving into London by air. From their perspective, deaths during or following flight and any negative health effects the process of collection and transportation had could jeopardize the production of Polio vaccine. The health of imported monkeys was for them part of a broader commitment to improving human well-being, rather than any concern for animal welfare per se.

With such concerns in mind, the medical societies had convened a conference 'on the Humane Shipment of Monkeys by Air from Overseas', to which they invited the RSPCA. Conference participants agreed on a series of recommendations regarding Rhesus' minimum age (6 months) and weight (4lbs), maternal status (not pregnant or nursing), and shipping conditions (no more than 12 in a 18x 22x 36" crate, no journeys over 48 hours). However, the RSPCA had been unwilling to publicly endorse these, as it was agreed Society policy to oppose 'painful' animal experimentation in all its forms. Ministry of Health official J.D. Whittaker thus complained to his colleagues that 'while the Society had originally co-operated... they had refused to allow their name to be publicly associated... on the grounds that they were opposed in principal to the import of monkeys at all.' At a later Medical Research Council-convened meeting it was suggested further that 'the R.S.P.C.A. has its crank fringe who would, if they could, entirely suppress the traffic in monkeys to the United Kingdom for medical research purposes.' The RSPCA's proposals were thought unjustifiably 'obstructive to the shipment of monkeys.' The initial close relationship between the RSPCA and government officials that the London Hostel embodied thereby foundered in the face of this sudden, unexpected surge in biomedical animal traffic through (and increasingly into) the UK.

Nevertheless, monkeys continued to arrive at the airport, and workers at the RSPCA Hostel continued the work of caring for them. An article by Hancock noted his amazement that 'by working day and night, four or five devoted people can feed, clean and tend to the minor accidents of a plane-load of 4,000 monkeys en route to the U.S.A. from India.' Nor were Hostel activities confined to the direct care of animals. Advice continued to be provided to the BOAC regarding best air transportation practice, something that the Corporation facilitated by allowing Mr. Salmon, the Hostel manager, to accompany shipments of animals across the globe. As well as studying the conditions of animals during flight, Salmon's trips abroad allowed him to observe loading and unloading practices in different locations, and, importantly, visit animal dealers and local animal protection organizations affiliated with the RSPCA. Having been rebuffed by government officials, these trips became the principal way in which the RSPCA sought to create better conditions for Rhesus destined for the laboratories of Europe and North America.

Salmon's travel itineraries give an indication of the extent to which the RSPCA's Rhesus care advocacy depended on the global connections afforded by air travel. His first, in 1953, took in Singapore, Manila, Bangkok, and Delhi; another in 1955 included Basra, Bahrain, Beirut, Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong; a 1958 trip covered Kenya, Daar es Salaam, and Zanzibar. These journeys placed him in direct contact with local airport staff, as well as dealers in monkeys. Though his reports expressed his frequent disturbance at the conditions under which Rhesus were kept, they also emphasized the practical impact that his presence could have. Thus he reported an instance in which a BOAC attendant in Calcutta had left a consignment of monkeys without food. This led to a tightening of discipline at the Corporation. Salmon considered that conditions at one of India's biggest monkey dealers (owned by two Englishmen) satisfactory, noting that the company had 'at no time... refused to take any directions suggested to them.' He also advised on cage design and feeding and watering practices. It should be emphasized that Salmon's activities at this time continued to depend on long-established colonial connections, facilitated by the emergence of air transportation networks. His sense of his own influence grew at least in part from his status as a representative of a British Royal organization speaking primarily to English colonists. Nevertheless, it also appears that his advice to these colonists, as well as dealers themselves, had a direct impact on the conditions under which the new trade occurred.

The final notable way in which the experience of caring for Rhesus macaque at the London Hostel influenced RSPCA activity was in re-directing its diplomacy. Although their suggested reforms had fallen flat, the Society continued to lobby government officials in the UK. Shortly after their 1956 meeting, for example, they sent an official deputation to the Minister of Agriculture calling (amongst other things) for him to recognize that it was the department's responsibility to ensure that monkeys arrived in the country in good condition. Parliamentary allies such as MPs Peter Freeman and Marcus Lipton continued to question ministers on the issue throughout the 1950s. But they also expanded their activities, sending representatives to the Indian Embassy in London to ask that India ban the trade entirely. Indeed, though there isn't space to go into the issue here, Indian politicians were by no means themselves convinced that Western use of monkeys in research was justified: they would periodically ban exports of the animals over the next few decades. RSPCA officials encouraged these bans, sending letters to Indian government officials whenever they heard of new moves against the trade. Similarly, they campaigned for trading centres such as Singapore to stop the movement of monkeys through their ports, and emphasized the suffering of exported animals to governments that they thought might allow animals to be taken from their territories. The on-the-spot campaigning of the Animal Hostel manager were thereby accompanied by extensive lobbying. Both strategies were conducted on a global scale in conjunction with allied animal welfare societies.

The establishment of an Animal Hostel at London Airport thereby pulled the RSPCA in unexpected directions. Though Hancock had envisaged the building as a place in which pets and livestock might be allowed to recuperate following arduous journeys, the space also gave the organization unparalleled insight into the changing landscape of international trade in animals. The rapid increase in Rhesus use within the medical industry during the 1950s placed new demands on Hostel workers, creating with it a new focus of Society concern. Though they were prompted by local difficulties at London Airport, the RSPCA's activities in relation to monkey care spiraled rapidly outwards, encompassing government lobbying, hesitant negotiation with medical organizations, international efforts to influence export practices, and a global letter-writing campaign. Whether or how these activities altered the use of Rhesus macaque directly must remain for now uncertain: it is in the day-to-day activity of animal care that went on inside the Hostel that it's impact on animal welfare can most easily be seen. This will be the focus of the final part of this short history.