A medical specialist with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a Washington-based non-profit organization, yesterday issued an open letter to Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) urging the Taiwanese government to avoid animal experiments by infecting unvaccinated animals with the rabies virus.
Since the Council of Agriculture (COA) announced its plan to conduct animal experiments to test the rabies virus found in wild animals in Taiwan in August, local animal rights groups, activists and experts have expressed their opposition to the plan.
Foreign celebrities, including actors Maggie Q and Alec Baldwin, have also petitioned Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基), saying Taiwan should not infect healthy beagles to learn about the virus, but focus on the more effective prevention measure of vaccinating cats and dogs.
The PCRM, which launched an Internet petition against the plan, has gathered more than 46,000 signatures.
Sarah Cavanaugh, a medical research specialist of the committee, issued an open letter to Jiang yesterday.
“We [the PCRM] remain concerned about the continued insistence by the COA that infection experiments with mice, ferret-badgers, and beagle puppies are necessary for vaccine development and outbreak control,” she wrote. “The use of dogs in rabies virus research is both unnecessary and unethical.”
Cavanaugh said experts in the field of rabies biology have clearly refuted the council’s plan and suggest that “vaccine efficacy in canine populations, which is essential to confirm in a timely manner, can be determined through a simple blood draw from previously vaccinated dogs, followed by in vitro virus neutralization assays.”
Claiming that experimenting on dogs would be a waste of valuable time, money and animal lives without offering any substantial benefit to public health, she said: “The most effective strategy for both short- and long-term prevention and control of rabies infection is widespread vaccination of wild and domesticated animals.”
The committee said it hoped the Taiwanese government would reconsider plans to infect unvaccinated animals with the virus.