Hundreds of dogs shipped in via Manchester Airport for animal testing met by protesters demanding rehoming

By Matt Simpson

Hundreds of dogs used in animal testing were flown into Manchester Airport last week – but were met by protesters camped outside the major pharmaceutical company in Macclesfield where they were heading.

The dogs were flown to the UK from Malmö following the closure of AstraZeneca’s Swedish kennel and on Friday campaigners were demanding action at their site in Alderley Park.

Carrie*, from animal rights group Manchester Animal Action, was at the protest with a group of around 30 armed with banners and megaphones. Carrie explained that the important of making the public aware of the situation.

 “It’s incredibly important to make the public aware because the only way anything is going to change in the pharmaceutical industry if there is public outcry,” she said.

AstraZeneca decided to close their kennels here and in Sweden as a result of changing their policy to stop breeding the beagles internally.

The dogs in the UK were retained for research, while some of the surplus dogs in Sweden have been re-homed with the company’s employees.

The remainder were transported to the UK to continue to be used for research purposes, but Carrie explained many would volunteer to foster a beagle.

 “If they did release the dogs there would be no shortage of helping hands to home them,” she added.

“There are animal rescue centres and lots of individuals who would be happy to foster or adopt.”

Andre Menache, a veterinary surgeon for 30 years and scientific advisor to the Save the Harlan Beagle campaign, said there is precedence for re-homing dogs.

Last year, 2,600 beagles were re-homed from a breeding farm in Italy because of animal cruelty charges, on the order of an Italian judge.

All of the dogs found homes and Mr Menache, along with the campaigners, is hoping for the same outcome for the AstraZeneca beagles.

“That [re-homing beagles in Italy] set a precedent and we would very much like to see the same thing happen with the beagles from Astra Zeneca in Sweden,” he said.

Belgian-born Mr Menache, now living in Sevenoakes, Kent, also explained why dogs, such as the beagle, were being used for experimentation.

“Any company wanting to put a drug on the market must, by law, test that drug on a rodent and non-rodent species,” he said.

“The rodent species is usually a rat, but the non-rodent species can be anything –a pig, a monkey or a dog.

“The pharmaceutical company has chosen the dog because it is far better behaved than a monkey or a pig. We’re not talking science, we’re talking convenience.”

The law requiring these companies to test their drugs on animals is 65 years old, and Mr Menache said it is imperative this law changes with the times.

“Science has moved forward by 65 years, but the laws have not yet caught up with the science. The law needs to change,” he added.

“Every day that goes past where politicians and industry sit and do nothing is not only causing unnecessary animal cruelty but it’s also not producing safe drugs.

“It’s hugely important that people are made aware of this because it is not only about animal suffering it’s also about public health.

“If industry can’t use animals they will very quickly switch to non-animal methods so whichever way you look at it, it’s a win-win situation.”

An AstraZeneca spokesman said animal testing is a vital part of their research, but the company uses non-animal methods, such as cell culture and computer modelling, where possible.

“Animal studies are a vital part of the research process and are also required by regulators before a new medicine can be tested in humans,” she said.

“Wherever possible, we use non-animal methods that eliminate the need to use animals early in drug development, or reduce the number needed.”

The spokesperson also stated AstraZeneca is committed to the responsible use of animals and their welfare is the company’s utmost priority at all times.

But despite this, activists both here and in Sweden are still calling for animal testing to end and the remaining AstraZeneca beagles to be re-homed.

*Surname withheld on request.

Picture courtesy of understandinganimalresearch, with thanks

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