The mysterious flying beagles
On the day before East Yorkshire Council’s planning committee considers an application for a new beagle breeding establishment, a recent Ministerial reply to a Parliamentary Question raises concerns about the Home Office’s regulation (or lack of) of painful experiments on dogs.
A few weeks ago, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, tabled a fairly straightforward PQ asking how many dogs of each breed were imported into the UK for use in lab tests over the last four years. Worryingly, the most recent statistics (Table 2) show that 232 dogs were acquired from other EU countries and, worryingly, 771 from ‘other sources’ which looks like non-European countries. 11 are from ‘non-designated sources’ in the UK which is intriguing.
As is so often the case in animal research regulation, there are exemptions to tough-looking clauses. In this case, according to the official Guidance on the operation of the relevant law there are supposed to be very strong controls on the source of cats and dogs to ensure they come from licensed breeding establishments (see e.g. paragraph 8.2). Presumably this is partly due to public concern over the use of stolen pets or animals from shelters. Although banned about 100 years ago in the UK, such incidents continued until the 1980s.
However, there is a loophole. The Secretary of State will grant a specific exemption if applicants can persuade them of (a) the need for that species for those procedures and (b) the unavailability of suitable animals (for the purposes of the experiment) of such species from UK designated establishments.
The general tenor of UK animal research regulation is ‘rubber-stamping exercise’. The worrying number of exemptions to the rules governing the supply of dogs is consistent with that approach.
However, what was even more intriguing was the first sentence in the reply given in the name of the junior minister Lynne Featherstone: ‘The Home Office does not record the information requested.’ But if the Home Office has carefully considered applications for exemptions that permit the import of these dogs, then how can they not possess this basic information? It’s hard not to think that they are trying to hide something.
It seems like a year of new Government has changed nothing. It’s the same old evasive, cavalier, pro-industry Home Office with no meaningful regard for animal welfare or the public’s right to information about the cruelties permitted by the Government in their name.