Exposing Cruelty

Giving lab animals a reason to live
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Words: Beagle Freedom Project
Words: Beagle Freedom Project

Charity Pot Partner, Beagle Freedom Project talks to Lush about animal cruelty practices and the new legislation that’s been introduced in the U.S. But is it enough? BFP digs deeper into the issue to highlight just how flawed our system is when it comes to the treatment of lab animals.

Every year, more than 100 million animals are killed in research laboratories, including tens of thousands of dogs—mainly beagles. These animals are often confined for months, sometimes years, in small cages or runs, and they’re frequently used in toxicology experiments where they’re fed a cocktail of experimental drugs until they have died a slow and painful death.

It’s bizarre that our society and legal system hold such inconsistent views of dogs. Acts of abuse that are routine in testing would be considered criminal if perpetrated on dogs living life outside the lab. Animals confined to a life of suffering are no different than our household pets—they feel the same pain when subjected to tests and experience the loneliness that comes with being confined to a barren cage without ever seeing the light of day. And yet, no matter how cruel and painful these experiments are, they’re all legal. In fact, most animal cruelty statues in the US contain an exemption for animals used in research. Something too few animal-loving Americans know about.

On June 22, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act—a much-needed update to the Toxic Substances Control Act from 1976. This new law requires that modern alternatives be considered and used in testing instead of animals, and it will also establish more reliable screening technologies than outdated animal tests. However, without banning animal testing outright, it still doesn’t do enough to put an end to the suffering.

It’s not hard to understand why inadequate laws are created or why this practice persists—money. Huge, profitable industries make large sums of money off the continued use of animals for testing. In rural Wisconsin and New York, enormous farms breed and sell tens of thousands of beagles every year to labs. Research facilities make billions off contracts from politically powerful agrichemical and pharmaceutical companies to test their chemicals and drugs on animals. Many powerful people and corporations stand to lose significant profits if animals were no longer viewed as furry test tubes.

Most upsetting is the fact that unreliable animal tests continue to persist even though cutting edge technologies have been developed that are far better predictors of how a substance will behave in humans. These new methods are more accurate than the same test performed on an animal. Imagine if we had first tested chocolate on dogs to determine whether it was safe for human consumption. It’s not toxic for humans, but it is for dogs. Cruel and inhumane testing would’ve proven grossly ineffective and unnecessary.

Beagle Freedom Project works tirelessly to bring about a day when animals are no longer caged, sickened and killed in laboratories. We’ve rescued hundreds of beagles and other animals from labs and share hopeful and uplifting stories of these rescues on our website. We’re also actively lobbying for legislation in several states that would legally require research facilities to make meaningful efforts to adopt out the dogs and cats who survive experimentation, as well as legislation to require greater transparency surrounding the research process. They’ve been dubbed the Beagle Freedom bills.

Sadly, the animal experimentation industry is opposing the common sense and compassionate Beagle Freedom legislation. They would prefer to euthanize most of the surviving animals rather than risk increased public awareness and exposure about what exactly happens inside those secretive labs. For example, Illinois is home to several large dog laboratories, and has thus far successfully fought our Beagle Freedom legislation. Who knows how many more dogs’ lives will be lost while the animal testing industry fights to protect its public image.

Fortunately, despite industry reluctance, such laws have now been enacted in California, Nevada, Connecticut and Minnesota, and an another bill is awaiting the signature of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Until animal testing is banned, Beagle Freedom Project will continue to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome the victims of animal testing, including five beagles just last week. We’re making progress, and lives are being saved.

A crucial component in the fight to end animal testing is exposing what’s actually happening. Laboratories understand this, which is why they desperately seek to conceal their activities. It’s also why labs are usually in nondescript, windowless buildings. Behind locked doors, they have policies preventing staff from photographing the facility, so the heartbreaking images don’t get leaked to the public. We have five separate lawsuits against institutions for refusing to provide public records related to taxpayer-funded experiments on animals. These laboratories rely on the public to pay for animal tests, but aren’t forthcoming when it comes to explaining how the money is actually being spent.

Our Beagle Freedom Project team works tirelessly to educate the public about what’s happening in these labs. We give presentations in schools about the topic so that the next generation of Americans will, hopefully, be kinder and more compassionate. Our Cruelty Cutter phone app—which is free of charge—lets anyone to scan the barcode of any product and immediately learn whether or not it was tested on animals, so there’s no guessing about the things we’re choosing to buy.

Beagle Freedom Project is proud of every person we educate, every law we help pass, and every animal we save. After all they have been through, these animals deserve a chance to experience a normal life with a family. However, we’re realistic and understand that rescuing the staggering number of animals used in labs isn’t practical. We’re working positively and with transparency to create substantive regulatory change on the legislative level as well as a paradigm shift in the scientific community so all animals will be considered sentient beings rather than inanimate laboratory equipment.

In 2015, Beagle Freedom Project won the prestigious Lush Prize for raising awareness about animal testing. The prize was established by Lush founders in 2012 in collaboration with the UK not-for-profit group Ethical Consumer Research Association. The Lush Prize provides funding to organizations and teams of leading scientists, researchers and lobbyists who are committed to building a future where no more animals are killed and confined in laboratories. Money from the prize was used to build on our existing programs, grow our organization, educate the public, and save even more animals’ lives. Learn more about the Lush Prize.

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