Posted by Vanessa-Mae on 15th September 2015
Using dogs in experiments: cruel, outdated and unreliable
We need a change in government policy
In our guest blog, Cruelty Free International Ambassador and superstar violinist, Vanessa-Mae, has her say about the use of dogs in experiments and her desire to see the day when gentle and trusting dogs are no longer used as laboratory ‘tools’.
I have always had a strong affinity towards animals, particularly dogs, and share my life with my dog Max. Dogs are loyal, trusting and forgiving. That is why I, and many others, find it upsetting to learn that they continue to be used in their thousands in experiments here in the UK.
Most dogs used in experiments are beagles. They are mainly used in cruel poisoning tests (known as toxicity testing) in which they are force fed, forced to inhale or injected with drugs and chemicals to see what dose will sicken or kill them. They are not provided with any pain relief. Even agricultural products such as pesticides and weed-killers can be tested. The dogs can suffer from vomiting, seizures, internal bleeding, organ damage and death. Those who survive are killed at the end of the experiment and their bodies dissected.
These dogs will never roll in the grass, splash in the sea, lie in the sun nor even see the sky as most will spend their short lives imprisoned inside. They will certainly never enjoy the love and affection of a human family. Instead, they are deliberately subjected to tests that will cause them to suffer. Caged on their own, these gentle, highly social, intelligent and sensitive animals are being betrayed in their thousands by us humans, the very ones they look to for affection and reassurance.
In the UK, it is an offence to ill-treat or cause any unnecessary suffering to an animal, to wilfully give them poisonous or injurious drugs or substances. Yet, dogs (and other animals) in laboratories are deliberately excluded from this protection. So, whilst it is an offence to poison your dog at home, it is perfectly legal that thousands of dogs are deliberately poisoned and killed every year in laboratories. It cannot be right that in the 21st century, in the name of any so-called cause, we are still poisoning our country‘s favourite animal to death.
To make matters worse, dogs are not and can never be substitutes for humans. They react differently to humans given the same drugs, so the results obtained from poisoning beagles is of little value to people. Scientists analysed data from 2,366 publicly-available dog experiments and found that the prediction success was little better than by chance. You might as well pay someone to sit in a room and toss a coin.
Huge financial gain dictates continuing with the status quo. But, there are reliable and effective methods that do not use dogs. These include cell, organ and tissue cultures, ‘Organ-on-a-chip’, microdosing and computer models and programmes which can predict the toxicity of new chemicals or drugs.
Because animal experiments are cruel, outdated and unreliable, we need a change in government policy to support and encourage alternatives. Sadly, the recent government decision to allow the expansion of the controversial beagle breeding facility in Yorkshire is a major step backwards.
Cruelty Free International has been instrumental in making the public aware of these atrocities committed against dogs and other animals. I join them in looking forward to the day when these gentle and trusting animals are no longer used as laboratory ‘tools’.
Ambassador for Cruelty Free International