It's A Dogs Life

Save the Harlan Beagles campaign demonstrate in Brighton


Vivisection might not be at the forefront of activism these days, but that doesn't mean any fewer animals are being squirted, prodded, injected, creamed, caged or otherwise tortured - or that some humans aren't still kickin' up a fuss about it.

Save the Harlan Beagles campaign held a demonstration on Saturday (9th) in Brighton. The campaign targets Harlan Laboratories, a set-up sinister to the core: Harlan is one of the world's leading suppliers of animals to labs for the purpose of animal testing. The UK branch has a diversity of inmates including marmosets, beagles, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, gerbils, and hamsters. Also available are hybrid, mutant, and transgenic animals. A quick google demonstrates the crazy world of lab-animal mutants – Harlan's online catalogue has more modified mice ('research models') than you can shake a stick at. Take the poor wee sod that is the 'athymic nude' – these bald fellas were 'derived from a nucleus colony from the National Institutes of Health' and is referred to as an 'immunodeficient model'. Sounds like a recipe for a long, healthy and natural life.

Harlen's brochure proudly boasts it supplies more stocks and strains of lab animals than any other commercial supplier in the world. The company has been quoted as saying it provides humane care to the 'research models'. Yet (not so surprisingly) investigations have found that, apart from the animal testing itself, the welfare of its death row prisoners translates to 20 luxurious minutes out of their cage per week and brutal manhandling techniques. An ex-employee of Harlan told mainstream media during an interview the unwritten company policy was to separate dogs “by kicking and punching them”.

In Brighton, the 500-600 protesters gathered to demand the end of the use of beagles in vivisection in particular. Protesters began to assemble at 12 noon by Victoria Fountain, at the Old Steine Gardens, listening to speeches. A silent march began at 1.30pm, with the mourners marching through the streets of Brighton behind a coffin, accompanied by a dozen or so community liaison officers and team of motorbike cops. After a loop around the city centre the march came to an end at about 4pm. Protesters had travelled down from different parts of the UK as well as some mourners from across the channel, with 100 envoys from Belgium, Italy and France. Non-human participants included about 30 dogs, mostly beagles. The message was simple: 'CLOSE DOWN HARLAN', and stop testing on dogs.

The usefulness of testing on animals has been scientifically debunked time and time again. On the beagle front, bad-ass vet and animal rights activist Andre Menache has written an article which, in essence, asks readers to consider “Why on earth are Beagle dogs being used to see what pharmaceutical drugs do to people?”. Menache points out that it's like using a parrot to test drugs for horses – so why does it continue?

As it stands pharmaceutical drugs have to be tested on rodents (normally rats) and also non-rodents (usually beagles) before trials begin on the species the drugs are actually meant for. And as Menache writes, 'science has moved forward by 65 years since those early laws were written, but the laws have not yet caught up with the science'. Animal testing is not only cruel, unnecessary and evil but also unreliable - hence pretty pointless. There are alternatives such as human cell studies which even to a layman sound more sensible.

There is an injunction in place to stop demonstrations at Harlan Laboratories, which in the UK are in Blackthorn, Hillcrest, Shardlow and Wyton. Save the Harlan Beagles campaign will not be holding any demonstrations at these sites in the immediate future, due to the injunction, and on their website has requested supporters to refrain from breaching this injunction in any way.

But that doesn't mean they're sitting back quietly. One demonstrator at the demo told us, 'There was quite a good turnout. We need to raise awareness in the public about what is happening in Harlan – the beagles are bred for torture and death.' On the future of the campaign, they said the plan was to 'target the shareholders'.

Watch this space...

Check their website

World Day for Lab Animals in on 27th April in Oxford. Save the Harlan Beagles campaign will have a stall there along with other animal rights campaigns.

From Dusk 'til Dawn
An Insider's View of the Growth of the Animal Liberation Movement

© Keith Mann