Ban Beagle Experiments



Beagle breeding facility closed down

Dec 2011 - SAFE is pleased that the Valley Animal Research Centre (VARC) has finally closed down. As those who supported the campaign to close it will know, VARC was one of the largest suppliers of companion animals for laboratory testing in the Southern Hemisphere.

VARC's facilities, based in Napier and Palmerston North, were at one stage holding close to 200 beagles in very basic, barren kennels. The centre provided the animals for research, and also provided the facilities for experiments to be conducted on the premises. It advertised its services around Australasia.

As part of the campaign against the beagle testing facility, SAFE delivered a 12,000 strong petition to Parliament in 2010 calling on the government to prohibit animal research on dogs and cats. In a SAFE organised march down the Napier main street hundreds of locals expressed their desire for the facility to be closed down.

Campbell Live screened an investigation into what has happened to the beagles since it was closed down. Click here to watch the story.

VARC was set up by bio-pharmaceutical scientist Allen Goldenthal, who has now left the country. The estranged partner of Goldenthal, and co-director of VARC, Margaret Harkima sold the remaining dogs left at the facility. It is not known how long ago the testing on the beagles was stopped, or whether the dogs being offered for sale had been tested on.

Pounds in the Hawkes Bay and Manawatu region have been receiving numbers of beagles from people who have not been able to properly deal with them, or even informed where they came from.

They are institutionalised and unsocialised, having been raised in barren pens without human affection.

"Beagles are the vivisectors' choice of dog because they are gentle and easy to handle. What a way to repay these trusting animals. It is not hard to imagine the stress the animals feel, being locked up for life with scant attention paid to their individual physical and emotional needs. Anyone who has ever had a dog as a companion will be able to relate to the terrible suffering of these animals," says SAFE executive director Hans Kriek.

On average around 300,000 animals per year are used in experimentation, testing and teaching in New Zealand - from cats and dogs to rabbits, deer, mice, rats, fish, birds, pigs and guinea pigs. In 2009 a total of 297 111 live animals were experimented on. 55 per cent were killed or died as a result of the experiment.


News Archive

Cat and dog research petition delivered

April 2010 - SAFE presented a 12,039-signature petition to Green MP Sue Kedgley last week, calling on the Government to ban experiments on cats and dogs.

SAFE's petition was initiated after revelations that large numbers of dogs were bred for research purposes by the Valley Animal Research Centre (VARC), one of the largest suppliers of companion animals for laboratory testing in the southern hemisphere. VARC operates as a contract facility that provides animal experimentation services to national and international clients. A SAFE investigation revealed that VARC holds dozens of beagles in inadequate, barren kennels.

"We believe the beagles are used for toxicity testing and some are killed so that their tissue can be examined," says SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek.

The presentation of the petition coincided with worldwide activities commemorating World Day for Laboratory Animals on 24 April. In New Zealand, over 300,000 animals are used in animal research each year. While SAFE is opposed to all animal research, the petition focused specifically on the use of cats and dogs in animal research.

"Cats and dogs have a special place in New Zealand society as valued companion animals, and most New Zealanders would be horrified to find out that hundreds of cats and dogs are confined in small cages and subjected to potentially cruel and lethal experiments in our nation's laboratories," says Hans.

Lab animal in protest

2009 - Over 25 people demonstrated outside the beagle research and breeding facility, Valley Animal Research Centre (VARC), in Palmerston North last month to commemorate World Laboratory Animal Week.

SAFE volunteers from Palmerston North and Wellington participated in the peaceful protest that began in the city centre before relocating to outside VARC's laboratory, where the protest continued.

SAFE Palmerston North coordinator Mary Murray reported encouraging local public opposition to VARC, and the Manawatu Standard attended and reported the protest in their newspaper.

VARC employees called the police in an attempt to halt the protest, however the officers were so horrified at the living conditions of the beagles they called the SPCA for assistance, seeking immediate action.

The recent Walk for the Animals in Palmerston North, organised by SAFE and Save the Beagles Campaign to protest against animal testing, was a huge success. Despite pouring rain almost 100 people marched around the central city holding placards, banners and wearing animal costumes to voice their opposition to the local animal testing laboratory.

SAFE campaign officer Sacha Dowell says, "After learning why we were protesting some of the bystanders joined the march. Most people were horrified to learn there was testing of beagles and other companion animals happening in their region."

The march continued on to a nearby hall to listen to scientist Michael Morris, Green Party candidate Lawrence O'Halloran and long-time anti-vivisection campaigner Mark Eden from Save the Beagles Campaign.

Well done to the Manawatu SAFE volunteers for organising such a successful event!

Balmy in Palmy for animals!

A four-month investigation launched by SAFE last year revealed that beagles and other companion animals are destined for a new wave of New Zealand animal research carried out on behalf of international organisations.

Current affairs programme 60 Minutes interviewed the man at the centre of SAFE's campaign, Alan Goldenthal, who made a convincing attempt to justify the use of animals for research. SAFE felt the 60 Minutes programme was disappointing journalism. It was a weak, passive and largely unbalanced look at animal research in New Zealand. The reporter made factually incorrect statements and let the researcher go unchallenged. Watch 60 Minutes

VARC is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere to use beagles for research. Aside from beagles SAFE understands VARC plans to breed cats, horses and rabbits, also for research. While it appears no terminal experiments are taking place right now, the facility is still new. It is likely animals will eventually undergo invasive experiments and be killed. The head of VARC says his animals are necessary research tools in the quest to save human life. The "higher goal" as he describes it.

A total of 318,489 living animals were used for animal research (vivisection) in New Zealand last year. The most recent national figures available reveal 757 cats and 682 dogs were used in 2006. The use of cats and dogs for research in New Zealand has doubled since 2001. Most laboratory animals will suffer. Many will die. None will be loved. If they are lucky, their death will be quick and painless, but most won't be so lucky.

Help SAFE to ban cruel animal experiments now.