Amid a public outcry, the Council of Agriculture yesterday reiterated that animal experimentation is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of disease prevention measures and that it will start to infect dogs with the rabies virus next week.
Following a consultation meeting of experts on Wednesday, the council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine director Chang Su-san (張淑賢) reported that to assess the possibility of the rabies virus jumping to species other than ferret-badgers, both active surveillance of wild animal populations and animal experimentation are necessary.
The experimentation plan, which will involve 14 beagles being infected with the virus, has met with strong opposition from the public and some experts.
A statement posted by the Animal Rescue Team Taiwan on its Facebook page questioning the need for such experimentation garnered more than 3,000 “Likes” in a few hours.
Dai Keng-chi (戴更基), a veterinarian and an animal behaviorist, also blasted the authority and experts who have endorsed the experimentation, calling them “inhuman” and claiming that the dogs will definitely be infected once inoculated with the virus.
“Given that the dogs will definitely be infected, what is the point of conducting a test to see whether the onset of symptoms would occur?” Dai asked. “It’s not like we would stop vaccinating our dogs and cats if the test found that the beagles did not develop symptoms.”
Yeh Lih-seng (葉力森), a professor of veterinary medicine at National Taiwan University, said that the number of dogs in the experiment would be too small for it to be valid.
The council yesterday replied that although all mammals are susceptible to infection, virus strains differ in their virulence.
Tsai Hsiang-jung (蔡向榮), director-general of the council’s Animal Health Research Institute, said that, as the genome sequence shows that the rabies virus found in Formosan ferret-badgers is evolutionarily an independent lineage, it is necessary to conduct the animal experiment for the better understanding of the virus’ infectivity for animals other than ferret-badgers, especially dogs, and for the direction of future prevention measures.