In the early hours of Tuesday, December 20, activists broke into the MBR Acres animal testing breeding facility in Cambridgeshire in the UK. There, they freed 18 beagle puppies, but police seized two others, named Love and Libby.
Rescuers, along with thousands of members of the public, campaigned for their release. However, days later, Cambridgeshire police department confirmed that it had returned both dogs to the MBR breeding facility.
“We recognize the strong feelings this issue has raised in many people, however, we had no legal justification to retain the dogs and therefore were compelled to return them,” Cambridgeshire Constabulary wrote on Facebook, adding that it did so for the puppies’ “wellbeing.”
“Fourteen people were arrested, interviewed in connection with burglary and aggravated trespass offences, and released on conditional bail until next year,” the department added.
More than 1,000 people flocked to the comment section to let their disappointment at the news be known. Many accused the police and breeding facility of having “blood on their hands.”
Animal Rebellion, the group behind the rescue operation, was similarly “outraged” by the decision. “Evidence supplied to the police showed inadequate bedding facilities, dogs left to sit in their own excrement and urine, and nothing for dogs to use for play,” the organization wrote online.
Now, Love and Libby “will face either euthanasia for being ‘contaminated property’, or endure a lifetime of suffering in animal experiments,” it added.
Animal Rebellion had organized protests outside of the Cambridgeshire Constabulary HQ, and sponsored a petition that called for the two dogs to be released. At the time of writing, it had gathered near to 35,000 signatures.
UK’s largest open rescue
Animal Rebellion claims this is the biggest open rescue to ever happen in the UK. Activists potentially face up to 10 years in prison for their actions.
“We rescued as many dogs as we could so they can live a long happy life with loving families,” Dan Kidby, co-founder of Animal Rebellion, told Plant Based News (PBN). “The rescuers then handed themselves in to face a trial by jury to give the general public the opportunity to find us not guilty and deal a devastating blow to the animal testing industry.”
MBR Acres controversy
MBR Acres is owned by Marshall BioResources, which describes itself as a “global provider of purpose-bred animals for biomedical research and related services.” It has historically bred ferrets, piglets, and kittens, as well as dogs, for experiments.
At its Cambridgeshire site alone, MBR Acres breeds around 2,000 beagles a year, selling them on for testing both in the UK and abroad.
Before being sold, puppies are kept in “horrific” conditions for around 16 weeks, Animal Rebellion says. Its investigators found dogs in cages playing in their own excrement and desperately trying to interact with rescuers.
During the action, the animal rights group wore t-shirts that said “Put Animal Testing On Trial” and “What Would You Do If This Was Your Dog?”.
It’s certainly not the first time MBR Acres has been under the spotlight. Celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Peter Egan have spoken out about the facility’s treatment of animals (and animal experiments in general). Last year, musician Will Young handcuffed himself to the gates of MBR Acres to raise awareness of the issue.
Dog testing in the UK
The UK reports conducting more animal tests than any other country in Europe, but much of the public is unaware of the extent of the matter.
In 2021, 4,277 regulated tests were carried out on dogs in the UK. Of those, 4,016 were beagles. All of these experiments were approved by the UK government.
Beagles are used for tests because they are small and docile, meaning they are relatively easy to exploit.
Dogs are often used for toxicity testing, which sees them force-fed or injected with chemicals. If they don’t die from the poison, they may be killed by asphyxiation so that researchers can conduct autopsies.
Do animal tests work?
Animal testing has been repeatedly shown to be unreliable, as well as cruel.
Cruelty Free International, which campaigns against animal testing globally, says there are a number of viable alternatives available. These include the use of cell cultures, human tissue, and computer models.
“Animal Rebellion is calling for the end to animal testing,” Kidby told PBN. “So we as a society can live up to our values as a nation of animal lovers.”
This article was first published on December 20, 2022. It was updated on December 30 to include new information on Love and Libby’s return to MBR Acres.