Setting the beagles free

23:56, Jul 11 2010

It's good news. In New Jersey, a research laboratory went bankrupt, leaving dozens of beagles with no clear future. A bunch of volunteers freed them and found homes for them.

If you watch that video, you'll see a vanload of crated beagles let out into the open air for the first time in their lives. You'll see one of the dogs step gingerly on the grass - because it had never before seen or felt it.

The dogs' tails wag with excitement at an experience that they'd possibly never known - people talking to them and petting them as beautiful animals.

One of the dogs, nervous to start with, settles on the lap of a Pets Alive volunteer and allows itself to be stroked and calmed for possibly the first time in its life.

What a tangle of emotions I felt watching that clip:  joy that the dogs would now have homes, sorrow, sympathy, fear that in some way the beagles had been ruined, physically or mentally, despair that so many more dogs - and other species - are living their lives as subjects for experiment.

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If you think that reaction was intellectually insufficient, then please sue me. The arguments for and against vivisection haven't exactly passed me by, and I've thought hard about the issue. I've hesitated to blog about the subject because it's so big and such a loose fit on me.

But this video clip literally brings a reality into the sunlight: these are animals no different from the ones that live a "normal" life all around us.  Personally, I think it's as well that I get reminded of this occasionally because usually we don't see it, and because people's emotional responses on this subject are relevant - they signal that common values are being affronted.

I'm so glad there are people gentle and generous enough to take action in this way to improve the lives of animals. May those beagles quickly grow used to the smell of grass and the sound of a kind owner's voice. Can they forget the past? I hope so.

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