Outrage and concern for beagle puppies in University of Barcelona animal testing trial
Research laboratory hired for experiment, Vivotecnia, under investigation for "gratuitous cruelty"
News of a medical experiment involving more than 30 beagle puppies that will possibly be slaughtered has been met with disapproval and indignation in both Catalonia and beyond.
This particular animal testing trial, set to take place at the University of Barcelona’s Science Park with private research laboratory Vivotecnia, intends to "develop treatments for fibrotic diseases," a statement issued by the rector’s office reads.
According to the university, which says the trial will begin in March and not earlier as reported by the press, "animal testing is currently irreplaceable in terms of guaranteeing scientific progress, especially in biomedicine."
"This is done only when it is strictly unavoidable and always in compliance with the highest ethical requirements to minimize the impact on the animals that are part of the experiments."
But critics remain unconvinced.
For one, the research laboratory hired for the experiment, Madrid-based Vivotecnia, has already been in the spotlight for what animal rights group Cruelty Free International described as "gratuitous cruelty" for causing "unnecessary distress and suffering."
Indeed, last spring, disturbing footage taken by a former employee, a whistleblower whose identity remains confidential, that shows images of "extreme suffering" endured by monkeys, pigs, dogs, rabbits, mice, and rats, among other animals, was released to the public and is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Despite these legal proceedings, the Madrid region lifted the company’s temporary research suspension in June, thereby allowing the University of Barcelona to award it a €255,648.80 contract "in compliance with all the legal requirements of public procurement." Vivotecnia did not answer any of Catalan News’ calls for comment, although their website maintains their "aim is to achieve the highest standards in animal welfare."
Because of this situation, hundreds of people, many accompanied by their dogs, took to the center of Barcelona on Saturday to urge the university to end its contract with Vivotecnia, to immediately release the puppies, and to not experiment on and slaughter the animals.
Iván Guijarro, of animal rights party PACMA, one of the organizers of the protest, explained that they had asked for the seizure of the animals through legal channels. "It is outrageous that a company embroiled in an ongoing trial is still awarded public contracts," he charged.
Meanwhile, over 408,000 people as of Monday have signed a change.org petition to "save the 38 beagle puppies of the Vivotecnia lab from execution" — the university says there are only 32 dogs involved in the trial — and to "put them up for adoption."
And around 20 politicians from animal rights parties from all over the world, including Dutch MEP Anja Hazekamp, have sent University of Barcelona rector Joan Guàrdia Olmos a letter calling on him to "take immediate steps to stop the execution of 38 beagle dogs."
"We want to emphasize that Spain is part of the EU and under the EU treaties animals are recognized as sentient beings," their letter reads — a law passed in Spain December considers them as such too, and rules that their welfare should be taken into account should couples separate or divorce.
It is not only animal rights groups who are worried about the animals’ welfare, however. Barcelona mayor Ada Colau wrote to Catalonia’s Minister of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda to ask that the slaughter of the beagles "be avoided." "We all remember the horrible images of the animal cruelty that this company carried out in Madrid," she wrote.
The Catalan government, in turn, has requested information on Vivotecnia from Madrid’s regional government to ensure the company complies with Catalonia’s research standards and European Medicines Agency norms, while the Catalan council of lawyers has gone as far as asking the University of Barcelona to rescind its contract with them "to safeguard the rights of the animals."