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Beagle Breeding

The domestic dog is an inquisitive and highly social animal which actively seeks information about its surroundings. Although much of the day is spent resting, the dog requires a complex physical and social environment during the active phase. (from Code of Practice for the Housing and Care of Animals Bred, Supplied or Used for Scientific Purposes, UK Home Office, 2014)

UK Government approved experiments on 2,742 dogs in 2014 alone. The beagle is the most popular breed for tests because it’s small and docile, so relatively easy to manage. Dogs are considered by researchers to be highly suitable for toxicity testing  – exploration of what happens to an animal when it’s poisoned. To test each dog, doses of chemicals are either force-fed orally via a tube directly into the stomach or injected.  Assessing the results of toxicity testing involves autopsy, which means that even if the animal survives being poisoned by chemicals it will be killed, usually by asphyxia (to avoid interfering with the information their bodies contain).

The Home Office suggests methods for managing dogs before testing and death through its Code of Practice for breeding and housing. Use of the code is checked by the twenty inspectors who regulate practice for the whole industry. Its recommendations include provision of cages with between 0.5 and 2.25 square metres of floor space, depending on each dog’s weight, and lighting controls to simulate day and night cycles. The recommendations also suggest that dogs should ‘where possible be provided with outdoor runs’, a requirement under EU animal welfare directives. This is just one of the reasons why the Home Office’s decision on a new breeding facility is so hard to accept…

To the best of our knowledge, most of the beagles used in experiments in British laboratories are bred in the UK, but not as many are available as laboratories would like to buy! That’s why Yorkshire Evergreen, part of the US Marshall Bioresources group of companies, has applied to establish a breeding facility for 200 beagles at any one time, at Grimston, near Hull.  This is the company that also owned and managed the Green Hill site in Italy, from which 3,000 dogs were rescued by animal lovers in January 2015, shortly after the conviction and imprisonment of its senior management team on animal cruelty charges.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the company’s directors successfully appealed to the Home Office for permission to develop the site by accepting one condition – its promise never to provide outdoor runs for the dogs it breeds. This is the contradiction which has led to a full judicial review of the Home Office approval, and Naturewatch Foundation hopes very sincerely that ministers will reconsider their support for a company with such a poor animal welfare record.

You can read more about the beagle breeding proposal on our blog page here and give yourself the chance to write to the Home Office and your MP and speak out against the plans approved by Greg Clark, Secretary of State, in July 2015 to extend a beagle breeding facility in Yorkshire.

Making dogs more cheaply and easily available is highly likely to set back progress on the introduction of advanced non-animal methods which are more relevant to humans. 

The same problem exists in the system which allows tests on dogs and other species for production of household chemicals, which you can read about on the next page.

Meanwhile, we’d like to thank you for taking the time to inform yourself about animal experiments in the UK by reading these campaign pages. We’ve covered the scale of the problem and our best assessment of its causes, including the incentive to run biased experiments which waste animal lives, and the regime of secrecy which leaves this sponsored cruelty unchecked.

If you’d like to get involved in actions to address the spiralling trauma of animal experiments in the UK, you can – take a look at the ideas below and drop us a line if you have any questions. Thank you.

  • Share this information. Right now, if you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re already supportive of better animal welfare. Whether it’s through social media, printing a hand-out or just by starting a conversation about what you’ve read, please share this campaign information with someone who doesn’t know yet.
  • Join our volunteers’ network. The Naturewatch Foundation Action Network links people with a shared interest in our animal welfare campaigns to organise local events, talks, petitions and research, helping to keep animal welfare on the agenda for politicians and industry. Just email to let us know you’re willing to find out more.
  • Use our Compassionate Shopping Guide. The new edition of our popular guide to products from companies who have rejected animal testing is available now. You can read more here, or contact us at if you’d like to help distribute the guide to friends, family, colleagues or community groups.