I happened to be out walking Sadie & Bella on a recent Saturday morning with my required stop at Starbucks of course. As I was leaving, I noticed a woman sitting on a bench wearing a T-shirt with what looked like an image of a Beagle. I stopped to ask her about her shirt and as it turned out, I was talking with the Founder of Beagle Freedom Project. I am aware of the testing industry and have been using cruelty free products but she inspired me to learn more. Did you know that consumer product testing is still being done using millions of animals each year? In the year 2010, according to the USDA 1,134,693 animals were tested on in the United States alone. This number does not include mice, rats or birds as labs are not required to disclose those numbers. Here are some quick facts about the animal testing industry.
* Many of these animals are supplied through either businesses that trade in animals or dealers who source the animals from pounds, auctions and newspaper/online ads.
* The research is conducted inside universities, medical schools, pharmaceutical companies, farms, military establishments and commercial labs that provide animal testing services to corporations.
* A wide variety of testing methods (both internal and external) used for toxicity and irritation are conducted for products such as household chemicals, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
* Academic and medical research also uses animals for their tests.
* The species being used in these tests which are included in the number mentioned above are: Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Marine Mammals, Nonhuman Primates, Pigs, Sheep, Other Farm Animals, Rabbits, Cats and Dogs. Yes, you read correctly, cats and dogs.
Many people I’ve recently spoken with were unaware that animals we consider to be members of our family are used for experiments. Over 85,000 cats and dogs live in wire cages and are subjected to horrifically cruel experiments each year. The most commonly used breed of dog is the Beagle, most likely because they are small, friendly and docile. Often their vocal chords are removed so the lab workers aren’t bothered by their cries. Many of these animals either die during testing or are euthanized when they are no longer valuable to the researchers. However, there are times when these testing facilities are willing to release the animals that are still healthy when their testing is complete. This is when organizations like Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) step in. I had the chance to speak at greater length with Shannon Keith, the founder of this wonderful organization to learn more about them and the work they do to rescue and re-home Beagles used in animal testing.
BFP began in December of 2010 when Shannon received a call from a friend about a lab closing for the holidays and their plan to kill all of the animals so they would not have to take care of them during the shutdown. Shannon stepped in and rescued the dogs and took them home with her until she found them permanent homes. Less than two years later, BFP is now rescuing Beagles from testing facilities all over the world. Their mission is to rescue Beagles used for experimentation that are being given a chance at freedom, foster them until they are ready to be adopted into their forever home and educate others about animal testing. To be clear, this group is not illegally setting lab animals free. They work directly with the testing facilities to legally remove the dogs once they no longer need them. It takes time and patience with dogs rescued from experimentation. Many have never stepped on grass, seen the light of day, known affection or had human interaction beyond being “handled” as if they were equipment. Once they’ve spent time adjusting to freedom in their BFP foster home, a special forever family will be chosen. That family in turn becomes an advocate against animal testing. Often, a Facebook page is created for their rescue dog to tell his or her story and to educate others about the facts of animal testing.
Sadly animal experimentation, no matter how cruel the test or how much it tortures the animal or how intelligent the species, is 100% legal. Are there alternative testing methods that do not use animals? YES! However, due to the up-front expense to switch testing methods, labs are not adopting the alternatives. That’s why legislation asking for larger cages, asking to modify some of the cruel testing used or asking to ban the use of specific species simply will not make a difference. Animal testing is cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary with the alternatives that our science and technology provide. That’s why organizations such as ARME (the nonprofit that runs BFP) is diligently working to abolish animal testing in the United States altogether through legislation. But until legislation is passed, how can you make a difference right now? There are several ways!
* You can make the effort to educate yourself about the truth behind animal testing and the impact it has on the lives of animals.
* You can help speak for these animals by telling others what you learn.
* You can donate to organizations that help animals that are used in experiments.
* You can become a foster for these animals. When lab animals are rescued, it usually means many are being taken in by these groups all at once. A strong foster network is critical to their success.
As I always do, I asked Shannon what she thinks the Beagles used for experiments would say if they could speak. Her response; “I didn’t choose to be here”. I can’t imagine anyone would disagree. Thank goodness for people like Shannon and groups like Beagle Freedom Project who give them the chance to finally live the life they would choose…with a family, being loved, and living in freedom.
To learn about the many cruelty free products available visit leapingbunny.org
There is an abundance of information on the web about the animal testing industry but this is a good place to start for an overview and links to other sources.
To keep up to date about the species and number of animals used on an annual basis visit the USDA for their annual report.