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The Beagle Freedom Project
January 25, 2011 9:25 AM   Subscribe

After lifetimes confined in a medical testing facility, beagles Freedom and Bigsby see sunlight and feel grass for the first time. [via America's second most famous beagle owner.]
posted by Joe Beese (53 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
This sunshine and grass, it's nice.
posted by beagle at 9:25 AM on January 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Definitely watched this on mute and it's definitely better that way. Cool dogs!
posted by ReeMonster at 9:35 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, that made me cry a little. Their happy tails!
posted by bewilderbeast at 9:35 AM on January 25, 2011


Yes, that is professional-grade tail-wagging. Never seen better. Thank you, Joe.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:40 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Awwww. I want to get down and roll around in the grass with them.
posted by mrbill at 9:45 AM on January 25, 2011


Beagles are the most popular breed for testing pharmaceuticals, household products and cosmetics because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving and people-pleasing personalities.

That is really disturbing.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:47 AM on January 25, 2011 [21 favorites]


[via America's second most famous beagle owner.]

No love for Jon Arbuckle? Or LBJ?
posted by Jahaza at 9:57 AM on January 25, 2011


I watched the video with my dog in my lap. He had been very naughty this morning but all is forgiven.

If they were going to use a Zeppelin song for the outro, shouldn't they have used Bron-Y-Aur Stomp, which is actually about a dog?
posted by Ber at 10:11 AM on January 25, 2011


Beagles are the most popular breed for testing pharmaceuticals, household products and cosmetics because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving and people-pleasing personalities.

That is really disturbing


Why? I mean, if you worked in a lab and had to choose dog breeds for testing use why would you choose something big or ornery? Animal testing is pretty shitty to animals but in terms of jobs I'd like to have as a human it seems like a pretty shitty job for humans too.

The part about the dogs being debarked was what i found disturbing. I mean, how long until you just remove their legs or something to keep them still?
posted by GuyZero at 10:16 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Too much use of manipulative music in order to provoke an emotional response.

But it's a great effort, and I hope it is one which continues to find homes for subject animals who are no longer wanted by testing labs.
posted by hippybear at 10:17 AM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know if I can watch this because I'll probably break down weeping.

That is really disturbing

Why?


Why is it disturbing? I mean ..... why the hell not?
posted by blucevalo at 10:19 AM on January 25, 2011


> Why? I mean, if you worked in a lab and had to choose dog breeds for testing use why would you choose something big or ornery?

I wouldn't and the choice makes perfect practical sense. But I find the dichotomy of it all disturbing.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:20 AM on January 25, 2011


I like dogs.
posted by JtJ at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


That is really disturbing

Oh totally; because it means that at some point, someone made a conscious decision to evaluate the different breeds of dogs for characteristics that make them most willingly susceptible to mistreatment. Sort of a "I need a dog that's going to let me really fuck with it, and still come back for more." and everyone else looked at their work and agreed that it could be an industry standard.

It offends the parts of our minds that understand that things like trusting, forgiving and people-pleasing are not things that should be exploited in this way.

A core part of my mind fully understands the needs for some kinds of animal testing, but there is something about this particular description that rankles me today.

Still, happy, free puppies are happy and free.

[side note: I didn't realize that beagles bay the way they do, and at a dog park last year, I was amazed to watch two or three of them race around making the most amazingly weird noises. If you've never seen it, it's worth it to see a dog that small make a sound that big.]
posted by quin at 10:22 AM on January 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


"In the case of Freedom and Bigsby, the holidays were approaching and labs typically kill their animals just before the end of December since no one wants to stay and care for them."

...So, these are people who, instead of seeing unwanted puppies off to happy homes, *prefer* to haul off and kill them? Are we absolutely sure we want these individuals supervising medical research that will affect the general population?
posted by Mooseli at 10:24 AM on January 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


IACUC Dog Care Guidelines
posted by benzenedream at 10:27 AM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like dogs too, and cats very much, and animal testing disturbs me unless it is absolutely necessary and life-saving, like for cancer drugs, not household products and cosmetics. I am not a 'free all the lab rats" person, but it is deeply disturbing that trusting pet animals are used this way. I stopped reading a biologist's blog because he was bragging about all the gruesome things he had done to animals to make some point about not being grossed out by anti-abortion propaganda. It was not needed to make his point, and put him down many notches in my opinion. Cruelty to the helpless is never a good thing.
posted by mermayd at 10:29 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


For sure, animals used for testing should be well cared for, it would be good for them to have a caretaker distinct from the experimenters who was affectionate and nice to them, and there's no reason not to let a group try to rehome them rather than kill them.

But I hate emotionally manipulative glurge just SO VERY MUCH, especially with the THIS IS HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL music, that now I'm just annoyed by these people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:32 AM on January 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Thanks for this Joe. Our beagles b-day is this week, we rescued him right off the street.
posted by clavdivs at 10:34 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beagles are the most popular breed for testing pharmaceuticals, household products and cosmetics because of their friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving and people-pleasing personalities.

And for many scientific purposes because there's extremely little genetic variation between beagles, I think less than within most dog breeds. My lab is working with some beagle data right now. I'm several steps removed from actual beagle incarceration, but close enough to nudge my uncomfortableness nodule.

The end goal in our case is (eventually) cancer cures, potentially even eventually cancer cures for beagles, so it's very much a means-and-ends question.

One time I was out walking my dog, and we ran across a couple walking two beagles. They immediately jumped up all over us. The owners explained that these had been research beagles, and jumping up was their only way to have social interaction in their cages, and so they'd carry that "bad behavior" to their graves. I get a little teary just thinking about that.
posted by gurple at 10:37 AM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is this where I can show off our own rescue beagle, Georgia?
posted by fijiwriter at 10:39 AM on January 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


The part about the dogs being debarked was what i found disturbing.

Really? I was under the impression that it's a fairly common thing for show dogs. I don't really know though.
posted by graventy at 10:40 AM on January 25, 2011


I was under the impression that it's a fairly common thing for show dogs.

Given that simple neutering is usually enough to disqualify a dog from show competition, I think that extremely unlikely.

Of course, they would be trained not to bark - just as they're trained not to get feisty when the judge feels them up.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:48 AM on January 25, 2011


As someone who rescued a beagle from the pound, I find this story simultaneously the saddest and most wonderful thing I've ever read/watched.

Watching the video of those beagles coming out of their crates and hesitantly wagging their tails reminded me of how far our rescued beagle has come. When we first brought her home, she wouldn't walk out of the room we had her in, was afraid of stairs, many noises and things. She hid in her crate most of the time. I don't think she was used for animal testing, but wherever she was before it wasn't a loving home. We've had her for 2 years now and while she still doesn't bark, in most ways she acts like a normal happy dog. It's been so rewarding to watch her learn to not be afraid and to discover the joys of a loving home. I really hope many more people get to experience that feeling by adopting one of these research beagles. Shannon Keith is doing an amazing and heartwarming thing.
posted by geeky at 10:48 AM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love how the wagging tempo increases as the video progresses.
posted by quiet coyote at 11:03 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


[side note: I didn't realize that beagles bay the way they do, and at a dog park last year, I was amazed to watch two or three of them race around making the most amazingly weird noises. If you've never seen it, it's worth it to see a dog that small make a sound that big.]

Nothing more special (and often, I'll have to admit, irritating at 1 in the morning) than the beagles in the backyard sniffing some critter or hearing a siren -- then one of them rears up on his hind legs and starts baying and the others immediately join in for the chorus. When they do that they're easily the loudest dogs for miles.
posted by blucevalo at 11:03 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


People make too much fuss about pets. We need animal testing.

That said, I still have tears on my cheeks from that video - and though animal testing is necessary, if they really do insane, horrid things like kill their subjects rather than have someone take care of them over the holidays, well, I think they're inhuman.

My sad feeling is that even though these things are necessary, the only people who get into fields involving animal research are broken in this way. Some subset of them are sadists perhaps but the majority are people who have learned to completely wall off their feelings toward animals and even to take a perverse enjoyment in the horror of the thing. How else could they survive?

I'm not really sure what the answer is, except to treat experiments that involve killing animals, particularly higher animals, like a trauma experience and only allow workers to do this for a limited period and with moral counseling.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:04 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sad feeling is that even though these things are necessary, the only people who get into fields involving animal research are broken in this way. Some subset of them are sadists perhaps but the majority are people who have learned to completely wall off their feelings toward animals and even to take a perverse enjoyment in the horror of the thing. How else could they survive?

Well, you could not believe the captioning. The people I know who work with animals (not dogs but rodents) like them and pet them and interact with them. Many of them are heart-broken when they have to kill them at the end of the study (to get the results, not because they're damaged in some way). I can't imagine that this is the first 'kind touch' these beagles have received.

Also the lab dogs at my old school were adopted out when they were done being experimental subjects.
posted by hydrobatidae at 11:16 AM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm happy for these dogs, of course - I'm not a dog person, but I've nothing against them, and it's nice that these doggies get to live happy lives now.

That being said, I'd have no qualms whatsoever about their suffering and death, if it were necessary to advance the cause of human health. Exploiting animal death and suffering is what humans *do* - we're tool-using omnivores, which means we've been killing animals for food and tools for as long as anatomically modern homo sapiens have been walking around. Cows are neat, and probably almost as smart as dogs - but I greatly enjoyed my burger at lunch.

There's no point in inflicting suffering where it isn't necessary, but in some areas (especially research into pain control), it becomes entirely necessary to make animals suffer. It should be (and is) tightly controlled, but I see no moral problem with it. Nor do I think the people doing this work are bad or morally warped people - these are the folks keeping us safe from hazardous products and curing us of disease, after all.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 11:18 AM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My sad feeling is that even though these things are necessary, the only people who get into fields involving animal research are broken in this way.

Your sad feeling is entirely incorrect.
posted by gurple at 11:23 AM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


My sad feeling is that even though these things are necessary, the only people who get into fields involving animal research are broken in this way. Some subset of them are sadists perhaps but the majority are people who have learned to completely wall off their feelings toward animals and even to take a perverse enjoyment in the horror of the thing. How else could they survive?

See also: Farmers, meatpackers, pest control, animal care officers, veterinarians, hunters, hospice workers, police, social workers, or anyone else doing an ugly job which sometimes requires inflicting pain on living things. Are they all sadists?

Many of the people I know in animal research are people who are in training to become veterinarians. They love animals and have dogs of their own (often adopted research animals). They are also, however, realists. Every few months emails get forwarded asking if anyone wants to adopt a research dog to save them from euthanasia. A few get picked up but the majority get put to sleep, much like at any other animal shelter.

It is entirely possible to get into animal research because you love animals, yet understand that some animal research is necessary. If that's the case, you want to do the experiment as well as possible so it does not need to be repeated and more animals sacrificed. If you are good at handling animals, you can ensure they experience a minimum of suffering during the experiment, and are not distressed during euthanasia. If you really care about the suffering of lab animals, you might actually serve on the animal research review board for your institution, so you can propose alternatives when they make sense and help enforce the existing guidelines for anesthesia use and humane housing. Some people have devoted years of their lives to humane treatment of lab animals, and they don't deserve to be categorized as sadists or broken people. The better ones are fighting for animal welfare in the trenches, not from the sidelines.
posted by benzenedream at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


Whoo. Hm. *sniff* So, this is in Los Angeles? *sniff* How many beagles can I fit in this room-and-a-half with two-cats-and-a-big-hairy-dude already living in it?

...


*sniff*

Shit. Time to get a bigger place.
posted by carsonb at 11:55 AM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Christ, what kind of monster would exploit and murder dogs? Oh, this is for money, not for fun, so that's ok.
posted by norm at 12:17 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


if this is so o.k., why not just breed humans for testing? If scientific accuracy is paramount and all... I guess they don't have big enough litters a couple times a year.

(sorry, sometimes I really dislike my species)
posted by Redhush at 12:47 PM on January 25, 2011


There are probably enough people in US prisons to fulfill the demand for legitimate medical testing for quite a while. Heck, a number have already participated in unsupervised self-initiated medical marijuana trials. Unfortunately, regardless of your views on morality, there are actual laws to prevent that from happening versus using animals.
posted by GuyZero at 12:51 PM on January 25, 2011


...and labs typically kill their animals just before the end of December since no one wants to stay and care for them

This smells awfully fishy. Research dogs are fricking expensive, and the cost of restarting an experiment almost certainly costs more than 1-2 weeks of salary for their care. I'm not saying it's never happened ever, but I'd be shocked if it happened "often". However, I could see planning experiments so that they end before the holidays.
posted by fermezporte at 1:07 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This really took me back to Richard Adams' "Plague Dogs," which I love.

Animal testing may be necessary, but it's a sign of our barbarity. We should be working extremely hard and spending research money in large amounts to make it a thing of the past.
posted by Trochanter at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


While it was adorable to see these dogs experiencing the sun and grass for the first time (according to the folks that rescued them), videos like this rankle just a little bit, particularly the text in the video saying how they rescued them from a medical "testing" laboratory. The use of scare quotes in this way almost always gives me an instant dislike for the people using them.
posted by antifuse at 1:11 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, on failing to preview:

Animal testing may be necessary, but it's a sign of our barbarity. We should be working extremely hard and spending research money in large amounts to make it a thing of the past.

I'm genuinely curious - is there a viable alternative to animal testing? How, exactly, would that large amount of research money be used to make animal testing a thing of the past?
posted by antifuse at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2011


I was stepping off the porch the other morning when my dixie dingo, Daisy, took a leap down the stairs like she tends to do, being a big bluff superannuated puppy who seems like she'll never really settle down. She was on the retractable leash, whereas Lou, my recently rescued gentleman microbeagle, so designated because I've literally never seen an adult beagle his size, was on his mid-length lead. There was a tangle in the leads, a blur of motion, and I saw Lou catapulted off the porch in a whirl of ears and tricolor surprise.

Daisy turned back, as if to say "What? Did something happen?"

Lou climbed out of the hedge, his lead trailing, and shook himself off. If I had dog telepathy, I'm sure his response would have been something along the lines of "oh bother," followed by a swift return to the task at hand.

There's just something to beagles, a sort of lazy-day taoism about things, where it's all just part of the same old cosmic flow, made smoother by a gentle complicity with things. Lou's a tentative guy, most likely from the fact that he's a beagle-in-miniature and a dog that spent years as a stray somewhere in South Carolina, but he'll play along, except when it's morning and you want him to walk on the wet grass. He'll buck like a little bronco for a minute, lost in the furry propeller blur of twelve inches of ears on eighteen pounds of dog with a supernatural distaste for wet feet, but he'll give in. He always does.

There's something to beagles, and it makes them perfect little victims, because nothing you do, no matter how annoying, frustrating, or otherwise disruptive, ever seems to put them off you. In a lab, Daisy would be a nightmare. She's a primitive, a dog bred by necessity, not the demands of people, and she's too smart, too willful, and will only put up with so much. Lou's perfectly to-heel, and he'd just tilt his head at the scientists, as if to say "what are we going to do today?"

That's what gets me, I guess. Of course you'd want willing subjects. People with power to execute want nothing more. When it's power used wisely, with a broad understanding of how and why we trade off suffering for the greater good, set in a framework where suffering is kept to a minimum, it's one thing.

Sometimes, it's not that thing.

Sometimes, it's not cancer, or AIDS, or a means of making painful, fatal things less painful or fatal.

Sometimes, it's torture so that brain-dead morons can wear their whore paint, or so companies can make sure that their electric stink machines doesn't cause asthma, and that's not okay. Hurting a trusting creature so you can have 60 percent longer eyelashes, glossy lips, and a house that reeks of an artificial meadow isn't okay.

Knowing a beagle first hand, I get irrationally angry at those lesser uses.

If you're saving the world and doing it with compassion, the eternal way of things will probably cut you some karmic slack. Hell, if you ask Lou, he'll just shrug a dumb floppy dog shrug, which is why I don't allow him anywhere near science.
posted by sonascope at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


I know someone who adopted a dog that was bred for use for research. I was there on the day that the dog first went outside and experienced grass and sunshine. And potato chips. The potato chips were from the person who had been doing research on this dogs litter mates. For some reason, this dog wasn't genetically applicable to the research that he was bred for and ended up being used for a different study instead, which he turned out to not work for either. I know he was treated according to IACUC standards. The person whose research this was wanted to be there when the dog was put on the grass and she wanted to make sure that he got to experience potato chips because this person knew how much dogs love potato chips and she wanted to make sure that the dog got to have that joy.

This dog had a hard transition to being a pet - it took him a while to become house trained and socialized in certain ways - but he's pretty darn happy these days.
posted by sciencegeek at 2:42 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


You had me until "brain-dead morons can wear their whore paint." Baroo?
posted by Toothless Willy at 2:44 PM on January 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the "whore paint" thing lost me. The fact that I wear eye-shadow has nothing to do with any putative inclination to rent my body to strangers, nor do I think that testing make-up on animals is justified.

It's interesting how things have changed. We accepted a lot of mistreatment of animals that we kept as pets in the 60's. My mom was a microbiologist, and we had a rescued beagle from one of the labs where she worked. The dog's name was Decibel because of that bark, which was loud as hell, and she was a horrid dog just like all of our dogs, beagle or no beagle. I did a science fair project involving injecting glucose or saline solution into mice, and I visited a colleague of my mom's who was chatting with teenaged me while he dug industriously into an anesthetized dog's salivary glands trying to hook up a tube.

Nowadays we just cut off chicken beaks, keep steers in manure-soaked feedlots where they are fed corn they can't digest, and raise pigs in ways that pollute waterways. But that's different, because we don't think chickens, steers, and pigs are cute little people, the way we think about dogs and cats these days.

I wonder how it will be different in another forty years.
posted by Peach at 3:43 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "whore paint" is one of those inside jokes that doesn't translate well, uttered as hyperbolic invective during a furtive moment of commenting at work. It's partly a Peter Griffin reference, but mostly refers to my Southern Baptist grandmother from Georgia, whose dearest friends would say to [ten year-old] me, "Joe-B, God bless your grandmother, 'cause she is just the salt of the earth, but we just don't understand whah she insists on looking like a painted-up Jezebel hoah for every Sunday service." Which is to say that she loved her makeup, and wore it to wayward and occasionally horrifying extremes. The ease and frequency with which elderly Southerners used the word "hoah" left an indelible imprint on my youthful mind to this day.

Mea culpa, however. I retract the original, in favor of "...so that the insecure, hapless, and indifferent [this being the omitted distinction from users of cosmetic products as a class] can look like hastily made-up drag queens," which is what I wrote first, erased, and replaced whilst writing an angry business letter to a French bus company. The emphasis on the link was intended to parallel a negative image with a popular company that operates without basic human decency. I am aware that one can wear makeup in a perfectly reasonable way, though I'm more specifically speaking to people who wear makeup from L'Oreal, P&G, and other companies without ethical standards and who just shrug it all off.

My apologies for the tone deafness of my comment.

When it comes to dog-hurting, I tend to write off the cuff.

I refuse, however, to apologize for "electric stink machines," which are unequivocally evil.
posted by sonascope at 4:18 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't think I was going to lose it until I saw that the beagles, once they first saw each other, once they first reached each other in the grass and the sunlight, immediately started sniffing each other's hinders.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2011


So if they looked like carefully made-up drag queens, that would be all right? Yeah, a little tone deafness is a hard disability to conceal :) My grandmother would have asserted that anyone who wore a lot of make-up looked like they were Catholic, but I try not to perpetuate the familial flaws quite so assiduously.
posted by Peach at 7:37 PM on January 25, 2011


I hadn't really considered a beagle for our (eventual) dog, I had no idea they were so sweet natured. Hard to think about what kind of suffering they have to go through in lab conditions, for whatever reasons. I do wish we had a better way, it seems wrong to put any being through that sort of misery.
posted by emjaybee at 8:01 PM on January 25, 2011


Every time I think of laboratory beagles I think of Cecil who ran the infamous Laboratory for Energy-Related Health Research (LEHR) experiment at UC Davis in the 60s where they fed Strontium 90 and some other awful thing to beagles and watched while they died horribly. Cecil subsequently had a vision from God and opened a Christian Bookstore in Davis (subsequently resold, then closed).

Years later my Dad worked on the soil remediation where they buried a lot of the lab detritus and radioactive material. I didn't have the heart to ask about whether they found beagle skeletons.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:38 PM on January 25, 2011


See also: Farmers, meatpackers, pest control, animal care officers, veterinarians, hunters, hospice workers, police, social workers, or anyone else doing an ugly job which sometimes requires inflicting pain on living things. Are they all sadists?

Actually, yeah, I would argue that a good number of those jobs attract people who choose to be there because they're allowed to dominate weaker entities. *cough*police*cough*
posted by Mooseli at 1:02 AM on January 26, 2011


(Oh, and can people actually be professional hunters? I always thought that these days it was just a hobby that sadistic people tended to enjoy... Unless you're from, like, the town of Bedrock, in which case I guess I shouldn't discriminate.)
posted by Mooseli at 1:07 AM on January 26, 2011


This made me want a beagle. I hope they have good life from here on out.
posted by shoesietart at 7:52 AM on January 26, 2011


The dogs were super adorable, in the sad-but-cute way that dogs seem to specialize in.

If it makes anyone feel any better, I agree with fermezporte that I can't believe that the facilities really prefer to kill off their lab animals before the holidays instead of paying people to work in their animal care facilities. At the facility I'm familiar with, it's an institutional rule that the animal care facility is staffed 365 days a year, and a vet is always either present or on call. Aside from the ethics, animals (especially "higher" mammals) and the research-in-progress are way too expensive to decide to scratch it and start over in two weeks. Dogs are walked and interact with caregivers (in a way not related to the research being done) daily.

I also agree with hydrobatidae that the captions claiming that this is the first "gentle touch" the dogs have known is highly suspect. If you look at the UofA IACUC guidelines that benzenedream posted, researchers are encouraged to develop a rapport with the dogs and teach them basic commands.

There has been a trend in medical research, even in projects that don't require a certain breed or size of dog, in moving away from dogs sourced from animal shelters and instead using purpose-bred dogs, like the ones in the video. While no one wants to do research on someone's missing pet, I think there's an argument to be made that creating more dogs for the purpose of medical research, who don't get to see the sun or grass, is the less ethical of the two options.
posted by twoporedomain at 10:16 AM on January 26, 2011


(Oh, and can people actually be professional hunters? I always thought that these days it was just a hobby that sadistic people tended to enjoy... Unless you're from, like, the town of Bedrock, in which case I guess I shouldn't discriminate.)

You might want to broaden your view a little. Supermarkets do not exist everywhere. I am not a hunter, nor a big supporter of hunting, but there are some very valid reasons to hunt and kill animals in certain situations. Eating overpopulated deer seems like a much more ethical way to eat meat than eating factory farmed animals, which take a lot more energy and land to raise.
posted by benzenedream at 12:30 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


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