About 30 animal rights activists yesterday protested in front of the Council of Agriculture against a proposed rabies experiment to be conducted on 14 beagles, with 14 of the activists volunteering to replace the dogs.
The Central Epidemic Command Center last week commissioned the Animal Health Research Institute to conduct an experiment to determine whether the viral strain found in Formosan ferret-badgers can also infect dogs.
The institute is under the council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine.
The plan to use 14 beagles as test subjects in the experiment has sparked a public outcry and strong objections from veterinary and animal welfare groups, which are calling the move unnecessary and inhumane.
Led by Huang Tai-shan (黃泰山), founder of the Taiwan People’s Association for Cats and Dogs, 14 volunteers wearing signs reading: “Let the beagles go, take me instead,” chained themselves together and sat on the ground, while other protesters waved banners that read: “Absurd experiment will be a global laughingstock,” or “Evil officials will be paid back for their evil acts.”
Injecting the rabies strain into beagles would be pointless because whether they get infected does not change the policy of urging everyone to have their cats and dogs inoculated against the virus, Huang said, adding that the activists are willing to replace the beagles as test subjects.
He urged the bureau to “not hurt anymore innocents,” adding that “the experiment would not further efforts to fight the disease, it would only trigger public panic.”
In addition, the laboratory selected as the venue for the experiment has been out of use for a long time and is not certified, so if any tests are conducted there, they would be illegal, Huang said.
A protester surnamed Tu (涂), who volunteered to substitute the dogs, said she has already made the necessary arrangements in preparation of her death with her daughter.
Tu said that sacrificing her life to save a dog’s would be worth it if doing so helps ignorant people understand why this kind of animal experimentation is wrong.
Feng Hai-tung (馮海東), the bureau’s deputy director, responded to the demonstrators’ calls by saying that he would relay their opinions to the officials in charge of the proposal, but said he could not promise the experiment would be scrapped since the bureau is not in charge of it.
Feng added that the plan has been scientifically evaluated and discussed by specialists.
Unsatisfied with his response, a few protesters shouted at Feng and were pushed back by the police.
After the scuffle, the crowd walked to the council building to start a sit-in hunger strike until the experiment was called off.
The protesters dispersed later in the afternoon after learning that the center had decided to suspend any testing until it discusses the plan further with specialists.