They had no names, only an ID number tattooed on their ears.
They had never seen the sun or smelled the fresh air. They had never felt grass under their feet, only the cold steel wire of their cages. They had never slept in a soft bed or tasted a treat. They were laboratory beagles, bred by a kennel, sold to a scientific research institution and used for animal experimentation. Until a Christmas miracle happened: they were freed.
Just a few days before Christmas, Shannon Keith, an animal rights attorney and filmmaker who runs the non-profit Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME ) was notified that a research facility planned to release a small number of beagles used in their lab. She immediately offered to rescue and place any dogs they were able to give her.
A few hours later, I had the chance to meet the two most effective ambassadors against animal testing – one now named Bigsby, about two and a half years old, and one about a year and a half old who couldn’t be named anything other than Freedom.
I could tell you all about this amazing rescue, but for the details, please see the video below.
By nature, beagles are sweet, gentle, forgiving and trusting. The same qualities that make them desirable pets make them the ideal lab animals: they are people-pleasers. They will endure being abused without putting up as much of a fight as other breeds.
Freedom and Bigsby can never tell us what they’ve suffered, even if they could speak English. Like other lab beagles, Freedom and Bigsby were surgically debarked by the breeder so there would be no barking, screaming in pain, or crying in loneliness to bother the scientists performing experiments on them. Their paws were inflamed and swollen from living their lives on a wire-floored cage, and the veins in their left arms are collapsed, like heroin addicts, from being stuck with needles.
Despite the fact that today there are more sophisticated alternatives to animal testing, what we allow in the name of “science” is sheer torture for animals in labs. Putting the ethical issues aside for a moment, there are vast differences in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry between humans and animals, which makes animals terrible models for humans. Results from research on animals are inaccurate when extrapolated to humans and, in most cases, animals are not good predictors for how humans will respond to drugs, treatments, or diseases. Yet by law all prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and vaccines must be tested on animals. 92 out of 100 drugs that are considered successful in animal testing fail in human clinical trials.
The testing industry brings in billions of dollars, much of which comes from our tax dollars. The U.S. government funds vivisection to the tune of $12 billion-with-a-b annually. The military alone spends over $100 million a year torturing animals. A lot of people are profiting heavily from vivisection – universities, contract labs, health charities and individual researchers, on down the line to breeders, animal food companies, security and more. These industries are not going to give up easily.
The good news is that we as consumers have some power in this equation. We can avoid buying household cleaners, pesticides, cosmetics and personal care products that are tested on animals. There are literally thousands of products on the market that are cruelty free. More than 90 percent of cosmetics and personal products companies worldwide do not test ingredients or products on animals according to PCRM.
Stopping animal testing for the pharmaceutical and medical industry is more tricky than boycotting medications. If you have the ability to do so, then by all means. Dietary and lifestyle changes are highly successful in treating many common diseases, including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and auto-immune diseases. The most effective way to create change for animals is to go vegan, since a vegan diet will help prevent the need for most pharmaceuticals and will allow you to not participate directly in animal testing. (Abstaining from using animals for food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research is the most ethical choice that you can make.)
Going vegan is not enough, though. When I spend time with Freedom and Bigsby, my heart is opened wide and reminds me that I have to fight harder to stop the torture and exploitation of animals.
In order to rescue more beagles from laboratories, place them in loving forever homes and educate the public about vivisection, ARME has created the Beagle Freedom Project. All contributions are tax-deductible and no amount is too small.
Freedom and Bigsby are ambassadors for this cause. When they are taken for walks, people always engage their caretakers and are told that they came from laboratories. Every single person who learns that these sweet dogs are used for animal testing is shocked and horrified. Most people still assume that testing is limited to rats and mice (as if that makes it ethical). In addition to beagles, labs use pigs and other farm animals, birds, fish, rabbits, cats and non-human primates.
Considering that Freedom and Bigsby did not know how to be dogs until a few weeks ago, they are doing very well. Bigsby caught on very quickly to potty training and is now learning what “down” means. Freedom loves cats and is learning how to play with toys. Despite their histories, they seem to have forgiven us humans for what we have done to them, which is more than I can say for myself.
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