Blocking the Breeding of Beagles is Bad for their Well-Being

While 2013 might be the Chinese year of the Snake, it might be reasonably described as the European year of the research beagle. In the last few years beagles have been moving towards the top of the animal rights agenda. In 2012, activists broke into Marshall breeding facility in Milan, Italy, and carried out dozens of dogs in plain view of the police (2,700 further dogs were then given away by the courts). However, 2013 has seen campaigns reach new heights (and this is list is not exhaustive):

  • February – activists began a campaign to prevent research dogs owned by AstraZeneca being moved from a facility in Sweden (being closed down) to a lab in the UK.
  • March – activists blockade the attempted transport of 8 beagles by Menarini, an Italian pharmaceutical company. The company capitulates to demands and gives away the dogs.
  • April – five activists break into a Dutch breeding facility and “liberate” six dogs.
  • June – the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (UK animal rights lobby group) started its “Our Best Friends” campaign to ban the use of dogs and cats in research.
  • August – the Italian Senate passed a law banning the breeding of dogs for research.
  • October – Oppose B&K Universal ramp up their second campaign against the extension of beagle breeding facility in Hull, UK.
  • October – 200 dogs are “liberated” from a laboratory in Brazil by activists
Beagles were "liberated" from Green Hill in Italy in full view of police
Beagles were “liberated” from Green Hill in Italy in full view of police

The two incidents of particular interest are the breeding ban in Italy and the campaign against expanding a breeding facility in Hull. Both of these incidents show activists putting an animal rights agenda above that of animal welfare.

Dogs are not only use in safety testing, where we screen for the safety and toxicity of chemicals and drugs to be released into the population (so called animal testing), but also in the understanding of diseases and development of treatments (so called animal research).  We should make a clear distinction between these two activities. Examples of the crucial role that dogs have played in medical advances include the development of ECG,  insulinheart transplant surgery and treatments for prostate cancer.  Most of modern internal medicine relies on knowledge we gained from dogs .  They continue to be used for research into stem cell treatments and spinal injury.

The UK currently imports 25% of dogs used in research (the rest are bred at breeding facilities overseen by the British Home Office inspectors). The expanded facility in Hull hopes to reduce the numbers bred abroad. Italy may soon have to breed all its dogs abroad if current laws are not struck down by the EU.

If an animal is bred abroad it must undertake a long and stressful journey from its breeding facility to its destination research facility. This is not a positive step for animal welfare. The further the distance (e.g. different countries) between breeder and research institution, the more damaging it is to the animal’s welfare. When this is coupled with the ongoing campaign to prevent animals being transported by air (and in the UK, the ferries, which are seen as the best welfare option to move animals from mainland Europe into the UK) we see a concerted effort by activists to put the principles of animal rights above the welfare of animals.