by Cliff Grant & Becci Pigeon
Beagles are very frequently used as laboratory dogs because of the innate characteristics that make them such beloved family companions. Their gentle and docile nature makes them easier to work with and experiment on, and yet as a species we reward them by breeding them by the thousands for the specific purpose of testing. Of the 4,481 procedures carried out on dogs in the UK in 2018, 96% involved beagles. (Approximately 3.5 million animals were used overall, among them mice, rats, horses, birds, monkeys, fish and more.) And in the US and Canada, approximately 75,000 dogs are used annually–and again, the majority are purpose-bred beagles.
Though dogs have been used as test subjects for many years (for example, one of the earliest major anti-vivisection controversies was known as The Brown Dog Affair) they were not bred specifically for the purpose of testing until 1952, when the University of Utah acquired 61 beagles from various breeders and began their own breeding program. So eager were the researchers to have many dogs as quickly as possible that the pregnant females were given caesarian sections as soon as the in utero puppies were viable, and were then reimpregnated. And in 1960, The Beagle Project began.
What was The Beagle Project? Launched by the Atomic Energy Commission in the University of Utah, the Project involved more than 600 dogs. Used as test subjects for radioactive toxicity experiments, the beagles were injected with radioactive elements like plutonium and radionuclide and deliberately made to suffer the poisonous effects. They developed disfigurations, fractures, loss of teeth and bone tumors. Worse still, the beagles who were exposed to highest levels of radioactive substances and experienced severe suffering were not euthanized–the researchers wanted to determine their exact lifespan with the radiation.
This project proved that beagles were easy and convenient test subjects, and by the mid-1970s, thousands of them were being bred to supply our research industries. Many of the experiments they are used for not medical in nature but for commercial purposes, specifically toxicity testing. They are tested for the side effects of pesticides, detergents and industrial chemicals. These experiments are fully legal and continue to be carried out despite the fact that a dog’s reaction to a chemical is notoriously poor at predicting a human’s. (Animal testing in general has a failure rate of more than 90%.)
Shelter dogs who have not been adopted are also being turned over to researchers. Deprived of love and companionship, shelter dogs and ‘lab dogs’ manifest the same emotional problems. They never experience any love or kindness. Some have never been outside or played on grass. They spend their entire life caged inside laboratories.
We need to simply accept that no living creature should be treated this way. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.You personally can help to end this suffering by being vegan, and by avoiding brands which still support animal testing.
Some still support vivisection when done in the name of ‘medical research’, so the real question is…
What if it were your dog?
What is it were your cat?
What if it were your rabbit?
What if it were you?
Would you accept it then?
Some call it science, some call it medical research–others call it torture and murder. And what else could it be, when there are so many alternatives available? In 2020, there are an abundance of modern, cruelty-free methods proven not only to be reliable, but to be far more reliable than animal testing–stem cells, in vitro testing and computer modelling, among others. Vivisection is simply a 19th century method of scientific discovery in a 21st century world. (Check out the incredible work at the Dr. Hadwen Trust and Cruelty Free International for more information.)
Animals are not lab equipment or experiments. They are someone, not something…and they’re here to live and enjoy their lives, just like all of us.
Additional reading and sources:
- Gov.uk, Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain 2018, 19 July 2018
- Beckham, Jeremy, OneGreenPlanet, Why Are Beagles Used for Lab Experiments? A Look Back at the Nuclear History of This Dog Breed
- Dalton, Jane, The Independent, Do companies still test toiletries and household cleaners on animals and how can you tell? 23 April 2019
- Humane Society International, UK animal experiment statistics indicate reluctance to embrace modern tools to advance British labs into the 21st century, 18 July 2019