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Brian May 'sickened' by Government go-ahead for Grimston beagle farm

Published 16/07/2015

The beagles would be used in laboratory experiments
The beagles would be used in laboratory experiments

Rock star Brian May has said he is "sickened" by a Government decision to allow the construction of a "beagle farm" breeding dogs for laboratory experiments.

The Queen guitarist, famous for his opposition to fox hunting, joined a chorus of condemnation from animal rights organisations after Local Government and Communities Secretary Greg Clark gave the green light for the facility in Grimston, East Yorkshire.

Mr Clark, who was science and universities minister in the pre-election Cabinet, stepped in to allow an appeal against the refusal of local planners to permit enclosed kennels housing 200 beagles and 180 puppies at a time.

The application had previously been turned down twice after fierce opposition from anti-vivisection campaigners and neighbouring residents.

Dogs are already brought to the site to be prepared for scientific experiments. Owner B&K Universal wants to knock down the existing buildings and replace them with an expanded facility where dogs and ferrets can be bred.

Critics point out that some of the beagles will be exported to laboratories outside the UK where there is less protection for animals used in experiments.

Mr May, who joined a campaign by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (Navs) opposing the plans, said: "I am sickened to hear that this facility is to go ahead, ignoring the views of the public and local authorities, and condemning these best friends of man to thousands of unethical and unnecessary tests.

"This is an appalling message for Britain to send out to the world."

Fellow celebrity and Navs supporter Peter Egan, who played the Marquess of Flintshire in ITV's Downton Abbey, said: "This is a tragedy that will see litter after litter of beagle pups reared for the laboratory, where these gentle animals will be force-fed and killed in crude tests that are of little use to people."

The planning application was made under the name of Yorkshire Evergreen, whose registered address - The Field Station, Grimston - is the same as that of the beagle facility owned by B&K Universal.

B&K belongs to an American company, Marshall BioResources, which operates sites around the world breeding and selling animals for use in vivisection laboratories.

Originally there were far more ambitious plans to construct a facility where 2,000 beagles and ferrets at a time could be bred for animal experiments. This application, made in November 2013, failed when it was rejected by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

Michelle Thew, chief executive of Cruelty Free International, formerly the BUAV, said the anti-vivisection group was "deeply disappointed" by the decision.

She added: "The planning application to expand this... facility has been an issue of strong public concern as is using dogs in research. This is a sad day for animals and, as a result, thousands of dogs will now be bred at Bantin & Kingman and be supplied to laboratories across Europe to suffer and die in experiments."

Cruelty Free International is taking legal advice about what to do next. A final challenge can still be made at the High Court on the basis that Mr Clark acted unreasonably.

Dr Julia Baines, science policy adviser at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said: "It is appalling that, despite objections from over 35,000 Peta supporters, the Government has disregarded the opinions of both the public and local authorities and condemned thousands of dogs to be caged, harmed and killed in experiments by accepting a proposal to build a new beagle-breeding facility, which was originally rightly rejected by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

"The Secretary of State, Greg Clark, has shown a complete lack of compassion, common sense and intelligence. Breeding dogs for experiments supports a shameful trade and is something that belongs in the past, when we didn't know that we had other options."

Navs president Jan Creamer said: "This is a betrayal of the animals, the public and science. The number of dog experiments has declined substantially over the past 10 years, but this regressive decision could see that positive trend reversed."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities & Local Government said: "Ministers are required to assess the application's conformity with legislation and national and local planning policy, and granted it permission solely on planning grounds."

Mr Clark's published decision letter said any harm caused to listed buildings on the site would be of a "low order" and there was no risk of disturbance to neighbouring residents.

Two factors in the proposal's favour were that it would contribute to economic growth and generate jobs.

The building of an outdoor run for the dogs was expressly forbidden in the letter.

Wendy Jarrett, chief executive of Understanding Animal Research (UAE), whose members include companies, universities, charities and societies involved in animal testing - among them B&K Universal - said: "We welcome this decision. As the European Commission reported earlier this month, we are not yet at the stage where animal research can be completely replaced by non-animal methods, and if we want to see more desperately needed new therapies for cancer, Alzheimer's, cystic fibrosis, motor neurone disease and the rest of the long list of conditions that are currently incurable, then animal research will be a necessary part of the drug discovery and development process.

"Relatively few dogs are used in research in the UK, and their use has to be approved by ethical review boards.

"By law, scientists also have to prove that they could not get the same results from non-animal alternatives, or from another species of animal.

"Given that we will continue to need to use dogs in research for the foreseeable future, we believe it is in everyone's interests that those dogs are bred in the UK and housed in buildings that are designed for their optimum welfare."

Only one other dedicated beagle-breeding facility is believed to exist in the UK, Harlan Interfauna kennels at Wyton near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire.

Animal rights activists are engaged in an on-going campaign to have the kennels closed down.

In 2012 around 200 anti-Harlan protesters joined a mock funeral procession through Cambridge.

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