An undercover investigation conducted by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) has exposed a world of nightmares for companion animals who are born, experimented on and killed in labs.
An investigator for the BUAV, known as Susie, conducted an eight month investigation at MSD Animal Health that exposed the horrors nearly newborn puppies and kittens are forced to endure in the name of science.
The research center, which is owned by the U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Merck, conducts experiments for animal vaccines. The BUAV, however, believes non-animal alternatives could, and should, be used instead. For many who oppose vivisection, the use of companion animals may not be any more offensive than experimenting on any other species, but the BUAV believes that its findings will come as a shock to millions of people who consider cats and dogs to be part of their family and hopes to raise awareness about the cruelty of experiments that continue to be conducted under a shroud of secrecy.
According to the BUAV, some of the many issues the investigation exposed included tests being carried out on puppies as young as four weeks and kittens as young as eight weeks before they were killed and dissected and nursing mothers being senselessly killed after their young were taken away too soon, while some of the other animals who were used were “allowed to suffer the full extent of the symptoms of serious and even deadly diseases.”
One particularly heartbreaking scene shows a tiny beagle puppy who is screaming in distress as a researcher attempts to deliver a lethal injection, but is unable to get a vein because they’ve been so damaged.
“This is a secret the research industry would never want to be released into the public domain. Millions of families throughout the UK who share their homes and lives with cats and dogs will be appalled by these revelations. It is unacceptable, not only that these animals are suffering and dying in this way, but that many of them could have been released into loving homes instead of being killed and discarded for convenience sake,” said BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew in a statement.
While many of these animals could have been rescued, simply killing them and tossing their bodies in the trash is easier than making any effort to find them homes. Susie successfully rescued and placed two beagles, Bonnie and Billie, whose puppies were killed when they were a mere six weeks old. She also rescued another puppy, Oliver, who she kept.
While they will have a chance to explore the world beyond the walls of a lab and live out their lives as members of their new families, millions of others will not be so lucky.
During the investigation the death toll at this lab reached 92 beagle puppies, 10 adult nursing female beagles, at least 15 kittens and an unknown number of rabbits, calves and chickens. Unfortunately, these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the total number of animals used in experiments.
According to the Sunday Express, not a single project license application was refused by the Home Office for tests on cats and dogs in 2012. That year 3,214 dogs and 202 cats were used in tests.
This investigation and others, including the one at Imperial College London, highlight the need to increase transparency and move quickly towards alternatives. Despite the government’s pledge to reduce the number of animal experiments in 2010, the numbers continue to rise along with opposition. The latest numbers available show that nearly 4.1 million animals were used in experiments in the UK in 2012, which is the highest total since 1982. Since just 2011, there has been an increase of 317,200 procedures.
In February the government drew more criticism after releasing its non-plan of a plan to lower numbers without a timeline or strategy for doing so. At least after hearing about the latest investigation Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker has asked for further investigation into the findings of a number of unannounced inspections that were conducted at this lab last year by the Home Office.
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