‘Distressed cries’ of beagles fuel animal research unit protest
- Credit: Terry Harris
Protests at an animal research lab caught the imagination of animal lovers from across the UK.
Camp Beagle outside MBR Acres at Wyton, Cambridgeshire, is attracting protestors from far and wide.
The campaign rocketed after video was released of what campaigners allege happens inside the secured unit off the B1090.
Much of that video has been challenged by Understanding Animal Research, an organisation set up to explain why animals are used in medical and scientific research.
Understanding Animal Research says its aim is to achieve “a broad understanding of the humane use of animals in medical, veterinary, scientific and environmental research in the UK.
It says “only some footage is of the site – the animals in transport crates.
“The rest is from who knows where, may have been staged by campaigners, and isn’t reflective of what happens in the kennels”.
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Campaigners, however, argue that “this harrowing footage reveals panic-stricken distress cries from many hundreds of Beagles who are kept indoors for their entire lives”.
Understanding Animal Research says all kennels are inspected by the Home Office to ensure strict rules on animal welfare are being followed.
“The dogs cannot be kept in poor conditions. The Home Office conducted an unannounced inspection of MBR once the footage was released to ensure that these were not the conditions on the site.”
On Friday up to 100 protestors gathered outside with passing drivers honking horns.
Camp Eagle organisers said people had dropped off water and food to show their support.
“Despite torrential rain overnight, Camp Beagle remains standing in the face of the infamous beagle farm, MBR Acres,” said a post on their Facebook page.
“MBR houses around 2,000 dogs at any one time, the vast majority of which are destined for a cruel, painful and short life in laboratory toxicology testing.”
“Puppies leave this facility for the labs, at only 16 weeks old.”
A special visitor was Scarlett, the Beagle Ambassador at For Life On Earth (FLOE), a rescued laboratory beagle herself.
MBR said in a statement: “These protesters trying to shut down medical and veterinary research in the UK are doing so based on misinformation.
“We cannot be diverted by activists misled by something they read on the internet.
"What the animal care staff do here at MBR is breed beagles that are healthy, content and comfortable in a lab environment.
“We don’t conduct experiments ourselves.
"The footage shows temporary transport containers that are designed to minimise injury while in a moving vehicle, a bit like a seatbelt for a human
“This is not how dogs are kept within the kennels.
"Our normally happy animals find the noisy protest camp distressing, which is unfortunate.
“Likewise, staff receiving abuse from protesters are fully trained animal care professionals whose sole task is to raise healthy and content animals.
"We remain proud of what we do every day because our work allows the progress of medicine to save millions of human and animal lives."
Their statement has fallen on mainly deaf ears among the protestors.
One said it was “an absolute joke the line MBR are spreading. Happy contented animals? What planet are they on”.
Understanding Animal Research sees it differently.
Their spokesperson said: “The staff at MBR are animal technologists, a specialist profession responsible for the effective care and welfare of laboratory animals.
“The government has a code of practice governing animals bred for research.
The spokesperson added: “UK law states that, ‘wherever possible, a scientifically satisfactory method or testing strategy not entailing the use of protected animals must be used instead’.
And he added the UK is also home to the NC3Rs, the world’s foremost centre for finding animal replacements and minimising suffering in experiments.
Established in 2004, it receives £10 million core funding from the government every year.
He said animal testing for cosmetics was banned 24 years ago and their ingredients in 1998.
“For household products it was banned in 2013 and the NC3Rs was established in 2004.” the spokesperson added.
“Reporting the protest is one thing; how the protesters think the world is, is another.”