The recent controversy surrounding a city-based pharmaceutical company allegedly conducting research on beagles, a breed of dogs, has highlighted the long-standing demands of animal rights activists, who have sought stricter regimes against animal testing in the country.
On Saturday, Bangalore-based Advinus Therapeutics was accused of importing 70 beagles aged between 4 and 9 months from China as “pets,” while they intended to carry out experiments on them. Union Minister for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan said a showcause notice would be issued to the company.
“Pesticide research companies normally conduct tests on dogs, rats, bees and chicks,” a former employee of a pesticides company told Express. Speaking on a condition of anonymity, he revealed that companies have resorted to importing these dogs from as early as the 90’s.
“They are brought and kept in cages, only to be used for testing purposes,” he said, and added that the animals were used for various toxicity evaluation tests, including the LD50 or Lethal Dose test.
Explaining the process, he said the lab would administer a dose until 50 per cent of the animals being tested is dead, which determines the level of toxicity to humans. “Lower the LD50 value, the product is more toxic,” he said. Also, the source added that the remainder is culled.
Adding to this, city-based veterinarian, Dr Pampapathi, said this particular breed had distinctive features and could be the reason why they were chosen for such tests. “They are hyper-active dogs and any side effect is clearly visible,” he said and added, “Their size and thinner hair coats also act as indicators.”
In fact, the action taken by MoEF is the direct result of a PETA campaign calling for the government to rescue these dogs kept at a quarantine in Chennai. They were supposed to be delivered to Advinus. In November this year, PETA had repeatedly sought government intervention and asked for the beagles to be transferred to PETA, so that they could be rehabilitated.
PETA is also trying on another front to get several airlines on board with the view that the airlines would refuse to ship animals marked for testing. As recently as last week, PETA volunteers had protested outside the office of Air India in Goa, as they had backtracked on their promise.