On Friday 12th December I presented evidence in a Dutch court of justice
as an expert witness in defence of five animal rights persons
who released six beagles destined for animal experiments.
Based on the information that the animal rights people had,
these dogs were destined for toxicity tests categorised as
“severe”. These are experiments where some animals are
expected to die before the end of the study.
The six dogs were rescued from a private property on the
night between 9 and 10 April 2013 and immediately transferred
to loving homes. The five people involved turned themselves
in to the police the following morning and confessed their
actions but did not reveal the location of the rescued dogs.
The dog rescuers were found guilty of theft and will be
sentenced on 22 December. It is likely that they will receive
a community service order and be required to repay the value
of the stolen beagles (around one thousand euros per dog).
What was interesting at yesterday’s trial was the fact that the
judge was willing to hear a scientist speaking against animal
experiments. My role was to describe to the court the nature
and suffering of these experiments and the fact that there are
alternative ways of conducting this sort of research.
Equally interesting was the fact that the public
prosecutor, having heard statements about the feelings of dogs
from the defence lawyer and some of the dog rescuers, at one
point corrected herself.
Instead of referring to dogs as “beasts” (which is their legal definition), she corrected herself and used the term “animal”.
Perhaps it is about time for the law to raise the status of animals
from beasts or mere property, to that of sentient beings worthy
of respect and the five RSPCA freedoms (with which we are familiar
in the UK).
by Andre Menache
Beagle image by Andrew Lynch from Wikimedia Commons.