Irate over Air France-KLM’s continued willingness to fly animals from around the world into the United States for scientific testing, animal rights groups have begun to take aim at Patton Boggs as a result of the firm’s lobbying work on behalf of the airline.
A band of activists from groups including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals descended on the firm’s Washington, D.C., office last Monday as part of their campaign to force Air France-KLM to stop transporting laboratory-bound primates and other animals into the U.S.
A video of the protest posted online shows those gathered outside the firm’s M Street office chanting slogans like “Vivisection is a lie. How many animals have to die?” Armed with bullhorns and placards bearing animal-rights messages, the protesters can also be heard shouting that they have the home addresses of Patton Boggs leaders and lobbyists and that protests at those locations could follow if the firm continues to represent Air France.
Contacted for comment on the protest by The Am Law Daily, a Patton Boggs spokeswoman said, “It is our policy not to comment on our clients.”
Lobbying records maintained by the U.S. Senate show that the firm received $20,000 in lobbying fees from Air France in both 2010 and 2011, after receiving $50,000 in 2009 and $140,000 in 2008. The website does not list Air France among Patton Boggs’s lobbying clients in 2012. The Senate filings list partner James Christian as the Patton Boggs contact and indicate the firm is engaged in an ongoing process of lobbying members of Congress, as well as representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the Transportation Security Administration and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency, on aviation security issues.
PETA claims that tens of thousands of nonhuman primates are transported to the U.S. from foreign countries for medical testing each year. According to the group, several airlines—including American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, and Delta Airlines (another Patton Boggs lobbying client)—have refused to transport animals to be used in experiments, but that Air France is among those continuing the practice. Earlier this year, PETA also claimed that Air France had canceled plans to transport 60 monkeys to a laboratory in the U.S. in the face of email and social media protests.
In a statement issued last year, Air France stated that the use of animals in biomedical research “is important and scientifically justified.” The airline claimed it only transports laboratory animals for medical purposes and that it monitors both the suppliers of the animals and the testing protocols of the laboratories receiving them.
Patton Boggs is the latest Am Law 100 firm to find itself targeted by critics as a result of its work for a controversial client. As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy group The Human Rights Campaign has criticized Foley & Lardner for its lobbying on behalf of antigay marriage group the National Organization for Marriage. And labor and employment firm Jackson Lewis has faced a string of protests organized by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for the firm’s role backing management in employment disputes at companies including BMW and Sotheby’s.