While animal-free experimentation alternatives do exist and are being increasingly advocated for, testing on animals is still prevalent. According to the Humane Society of the United States, more than 25 million vertebrate animals, from dogs and cats to rats and mice, are used in research, testing, and education in the U.S. every year.
Of these 25 million or so, 200,000 of them are rabbits, as the United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has reported in filings.
Most rabbits are used in toxicity testing, such as the painful Draize eye and skin irritancy tests during which a rabbit is “locked into full-body restraints to prevent them from touching eye or skin sores,” the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) reports.
Rabbits are also known to be used to test pyrogenicity, the ability of a product to induce a fever, and for development or embryotoxcity tests, which aim to determine “the danger that a product will harm a pregnant female of developing fetus,” AAVS explains.
Despite all their service to testing facilities, rabbits rarely receive any kindness in laboratories. AAVS states that the lab environment is “particularly noxious to rabbits, causing great stress, weakening their immune systems, and making them more prone to illness.”
What’s more, these rabbits seldom leave their cages, except for testing procedures, and are often never provided with enrichment or any sort of comfort.
Beagle Freedom Project, a rescue, foster, and adoption program with the nonprofit Animal Rescue, Media and Education (ARME) based in Los Angeles, Calif., has taken in and cared for a number of lab rabbits over the years through retirement agreements with laboratories.
Kevin Chase, Beagle Freedom Project’s director of operations, tells OGP that they have even sent letters to every U.S. cosmetics and household product company that still uses animals for testing, asking that they surrender their research animals after terminating their studies to allow them to be put up for adoption.
It was this type of agreement that allowed Beagle Freedom Project to rescue rabbits, Bun and Honey. They are just two of eight rabbits who the project has saved over the last 18 months.
While not much is known about what type of experiments Bun and Honey were forced to undergo (laboratories rarely release this information), Beagle Freedom Project tells us that they came from a privately owned facility in Northern California where they were housed in a room with no windows and lived “individually in stainless steel cages with slated floors and drip water feeders.”
“When asked if they were ever allowed any exercise outside of the cages, the answer was a clipped ‘no,’” Beagle Freedom Project President and Founder Shannon Keith tells us.
Both rabbits were initially timid and understandably wary of humans.
“Once freed into the open air of the rescue center in Los Angeles they cautiously explored their new environment when they didn’t think people were around. If a volunteer was nearby they would hide in an enclosure built for their privacy,” says Keith.
Not long after their arrival, staff discovered that Honey’s body was “riddled with tumors” and that she was “grossly large,” causing her to have “mobility issues,” as Keith explains.
Honey was promptly treated to veterinary care to help return her to full health.
“As the weeks progressed the rabbits got used to human interaction and started to recognize it as safe and rewarding, as people always came with cilantro, parsley, carrots, and other veggies. They loved their food,” Keith tells OGP.
Keith also reports that Honey is now “enjoying a great quality of life” and loves “laying outside in the fresh air and basking in the sunshine.”
Bun and Honey will no longer be housed in small, sterile cages and forced through pain and suffering in the name of science. They are now free – free to play, rest and feel the ground, the grass, and the sun for the rest of their days.
As Keith says, “If a rabbit, dog, cat, pig, or any animal suffers for human products do we not owe them at least a second chance at life?”
To help end cosmetics testing on animals like Bun and Honey, please urge your representatives to support and co-sponsor the newly introduced Humane Cosmetics Act by signing this petition and contacting your legislators directly via phone, email, or postal letter to increase impact.
For more information about the Beagle Freedom Project, please visit the group’s website and Facebook. You can also show your support by signing The Beagle Freedom Bill and through a donation or by signing on to foster or adopt a rescued lab animal.
Lead image source: Beagle Freedom Project