Michel Vandenbosch: “With www.testssuranimaux.be we want to make information on animal testing available to the general public. It also provides information on new test methods that do not require animals. Our aim is to provide clear, well-founded arguments that show that animal testing is not as fantastic as the people conducting tests claim it is. The claim that animal testing is a 'necessary evil’ is deeply flawed: less and less painful tests, less and less animal testing, more animal-free research and animal-replacement research methods are a necessary good."
No to experiments on healthy dogs and cats
To mark the occasion of World Day for Laboratory Animals 2021, GAIA is calling for a halt on invasive experiments on healthy dogs and cats. We are also calling for a halt to the practice of killing lab animals at the end of research projects, when they have outlived their “usefulness”; instead we want them to be released for adoption. In 2019, in Belgium 1,302 tests were carried out on beagles.
Sweet-natured family dogs
Beagles are sweet-natured family dogs. Because of this, they are used to test implants, among other things. In Flanders, beagles were implanted with a device to suppress their appetite, with the aim of developing a human stomach stimulator to increase weight loss (experiment conducted in the period from September 2019 to September 2020). A similar trial was also conducted in Wallonia in 2016, this time to develop an alternative to the gastric band. If implanted devices cannot be removed safely, beagles are killed, or 'euthanised’ as researches put it. Other scientific tests conducted in Belgium include deliberately making dogs sick or injuring them to gain knowledge on a disease or injury and testing chemical substances on animals. GAIA is calling on Belgium’s Ministers for Animal Welfare to ban invasive experiments on healthy cats and dogs.
Dogs remain popular experimental animals
On World Day for Laboratory Animals, we take a moment to remember the numerous painful tests being carried out worldwide. An analysis made by GAIA on the use of lab animals in Belgium shows that dogs are still popular animals for experiments. In 2019, 1,302 tests were carried out on 542 dogs, all of them of the beagle breed. Most of these tests – namely 1,286 tests on 526 animals – are conducted in Flanders. According to the most recent statistics, no experiments were carried out on dogs in the Brussels Capital Region. Although animal testing on cats without their owner’s consent is rare, it still occurs.
GAIA does not want the use of healthy dogs and cats, whether or not the animals have been specifically bred for experiments to be allowed for invasive tests. Licenses for such tests must be very strictly assessed and should only be granted in exceptional situations. Some of the animal tests are carried out in the benefit of the dogs or cats themselves, more precisely on (incurably) ill animals on which potential drugs are being tested for their benefit only. It concerns animal patients, for whom the people that take care of them give their consent. Such tests are acceptable to GAIA because no healthy animals are made sick especially for the purpose of the test.
GAIA is also concerned about the fate of lab dogs and lab cats at the end of the research project. Currently, scientists can at their own discretion decide whether to re-use a dog, release for adoption or kill the animal. At the very least, a legislative framework should be developed with criteria on the basis of which is decided what happens to a lab animal at the end of the experiment. According to GAIA, it should be compulsory to release animals for adoption (rehoming) at the end of experiments or research projects. The killing of lab animals should no longer be an option unless the suffering of the beagle or cat during the test is too severe to be allowed to continue.
Michel Vandenbosch, GAIA’s President: "To draw attention to the numerous dogs that are being experimented on, we have organised a symbolic recall for all beagles in Belgium so that they can be used for scientific testing. By doing so, we want to make it clear that the animals being subjected to implants or having substances tested on them could just as easily have been your family pet. You would not want anything like this to happen to your own dog or cat. But unknown, perfectly healthy dogs or cats, with whom you have no connection, are being made ill in laboratory tests and subjected to suffering. These vulnerable animals have the same fundamental needs as your animals and just as much right to live a good life.”
For GAIA, testing is only acceptable when it involves the use of incurably ill dogs or cats to find a cure or treatment for that particular condition and only if the owners give their informed consent.