Dozens of caged beagles were seen waiting on the tarmac in Denmark to be flown to the UK for medical experiments. More than 1,000 of the dogs have been imported from the US via Copenhagen in the past two years, despite the UK having one of the world's largest beagle breeding facilities. Owned by the US firm Marshall BioRescources, MBR Acres in Wyton, Cambs, produces approximately 2,000 beagles each year for experimental use.
Although Freedom of Information requests have revealed that 1,092 dogs have been imported over two years, this number is still insignificant compared to the demand for approximately 3,000 dogs required annually in the UK for testing new medicines.
One Danish FOI uncovered a shipment of beagles being sent to LabCorp in Huntingdon, just 15 minutes from MBR Acres. The Beagle Freedom Project UK's Robert Cogswell, who obtained the documents, revealed his concern, saying: "Not only are beagles forced to endure painful experiments inside UK labs, their misery begins at the point of birth. They are born into what can only be described as industrial-size puppy farms, where they are merely objects for profit, and no consideration is given to their welfare and bred in conditions that would be considered illegal if the dogs were being bred as domestic pets."
Cogswell continued, "We currently have a situation where beagle dogs are being flown halfway around the world, landing at Copenhagen airport before being transferred to another plane and flown to the UK. It begs the question of why dogs are being put through additional torment when a Marshall Bio facility already exists in the UK. Not only that but why are the dogs being forced to endure such long journeys? If the welfare of the animals was paramount, why not transport them directly into the UK?"
In April 2022, 96 dogs were imported into the UK from the now-discredited company Envigo, based in Cumberland, Virginia. The company had its license revoked in May 2022 after multiple breaches of animal welfare laws, and its 4,000 dogs were confiscated. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex adopted one of the dogs, named Mamma Mia.
Marshall BioResources declined to comment on the matter. Meanwhile, Understanding Animal Research's CEO, Wendy Jarrett, claimed that "UK law requires that all potential new medicines are safety-tested in animals before they are given to human volunteers in clinical trials. This safety testing often involves the use of dogs, to check that the animals are not harmed by the new medicine."
Jarrett explained that around 3,000 dogs are required each year in the UK for this research, and there may be a very few occasions when a limited number of animals need to be imported from overseas to meet demand. She added that the facility has also been the target of animal rights activism for the past 22 months, which may have affected its business, resulting in dogs being flown in from abroad to allow the required regulatory safety testing to go ahead before clinical trials of new medicines.
It is a well-known fact that animal testing is a highly controversial issue. Some argue that animal testing is necessary to guarantee that new medicines are safe for human use. Still, others maintain that it is cruel and inhumane to test on animals, and alternative methods, such as cell cultures and computer models, should be used instead.
The topic of animal testing has been highly debated over the years, with some groups campaigning for the complete abolition of animal testing in medical research. However, it is unlikely that animal testing will be abolished entirely any time soon. The use of animals in research is heavily regulated, with animal welfare laws in place to ensure that the animals are treated humanely.
Furthermore, it is vital to explore alternative methods of research that do not involve the use of animals to ensure that animal testing is used only when absolutely necessary. Finally, it is crucial to continue the debate on the ethics of animal testing and to work towards a future where animal testing is no longer necessary.