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A colony of dogs has been maintained at Queen’s since 1981 for use in hemophilia research (miniature schnauzers, spaniels and beagles). This ongoing research project is instructive for thinking about the ethics of using animals for biomedical research to benefit humans, and the need for genuine public oversight.
Hemophilia is a rare blood clotting disorder, affecting approximately 3000 Canadians. Current treatment, which is highly effective, is to replace the missing clotting factor either on an as-needs basis if a bleed occurs, or as part of ongoing prophylactic treatment (self-injection with the deficient clotting factor 3 times per week). The standard treatment has improved significantly in recent decades, and most people with hemophilia can now live a normal life span, with excellent quality of life, although a minority of patients develop inhibitors (a rejection response to clotting factor) making their treatment more complex.
The Queen’s colony includes dogs purpose-bred to have hemophilia, as well as non-diseased dogs to serve as research controls, or as blood donors for the hemophilia dogs who need regular transfusions. As noted in this article, these dogs are used for experiments over and over again, into old age. Dogs in other hemophilia research colonies, like University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, at least have outdoor runs, and access to a one acre outdoor play area. Not so for the Queen’s dogs who spend their entire lives in the lab.
Originally the Queen’s dogs were used to refine the standard infusion treatments for humans with hemophilia, and to study the problem of inhibitors. More recently, however, the dogs have been used for to explore gene transfer techniques as a possible treatment for hemophilia A (the common form of the disease which accounts for approximately 80% of cases). Here is the pubmed link to a 2014 gene therapy study conducted at Queen’s.
A recent article by Cynthia Radnitz in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies points to the future when animals in research studies will have the same protections as humans used in research studies. Radnitz argues that research decisions involving animals should fall under the auspices of the same Institutional Review Board process that oversees human research, and that ethics protocols protecting vulnerable human groups (like young children, and people with cognitive disabilities) can be adapted for nonhuman animals involved in observational studies, ethnographic research, clinical trials, and therapeutic treatments.
See the full study here (p.51-83).
Picture source: Wikipedia
In yet another devastating undercover investigation Mercy For Animals reveals the appalling treatment of animals by the Canadian agriculture industry, this time at the Western Hog Exchange. The conditions for pigs before, during and after transportation to slaughter are indescribable. They go for days without food or water in conditions so crowded they can’t lie down. They have no protection from extreme heat and cold causing many to die en route (after unimaginable suffering). They are handled violently by beating, kicking and electric prod shocking. And note that this undercover video was filmed at a facility that has daily visits from federal inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As you will see in the video, the inspectors fail to intervene time and again while pigs are being subject to horrendous abuse.
Even if you don’t watch the video, please sign MFS’s petition, and read the information on their site contrasting European legislation regarding animal transport with the regulatory black hole that is Canada.
You can watch the video here or below but beware that the video shows disturbing and graphic content:
Or you can read the in-depth report here.
A new article from the Dodo, by Marc Bekoff: Last May the Beagle Freedom Project released nine dogs who had spent their entire lives in cages at research labs. These beagles can now enjoy their freedom:
This is what we are all working for. Please support QAD’s petition to Queen’s university to establish a release and adoption program for animals in research labs.