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Bred to Suffer: Glenn Greenwald on the “Morally Unconscionable” U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation

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Animal experimentation is on the rise in the United States. The Department of Agriculture reports that nearly 61,000 dogs were used in the U.S. for experimentation in 2016 alone, and the total reported number of animals used for experimentation was more than 820,000. A major new investigation by The Intercept examines the poorly regulated and highly profitable industry of breeding dogs for the sole purpose of experimenting on them in the U.S. The investigation reveals the horrors of the dog experimentation industry at one of the three largest firms in the U.S. that sells beagles to research labs: Ridglan Farms. We speak with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro to discuss his in-depth investigation, headlined “Bred to Suffer: Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation.”

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can talk, Glenn Greenwald, about the investigation you did, “Bred to Suffer: Inside the Barbaric U.S. Industry of Dog Experimentation”?

GLENN GREENWALD: So, a lot of people, Amy, including people who follow animal rights issues somewhat closely, don’t even realize that it’s legal in the United States to conduct scientific experimentation on dogs. But not only is it legal, it’s pervasive. In 2016, just in terms of what was reported—and the numbers are definitely far greater—60,000 dogs were subjected to all kinds of experimentations, not just medical experimentations where pathogens are injected into their brains by drilling holes in their head, but where they’re force-fed commercial products like laundry detergent right into their stomach using oral gavage, the same same technique used to make fois gras, in which just placed into their stomach are commercial products that cause them to vomit and go into seizures and comas, just for pure commercial testing.

And even researchers say that most of the time these experiments produce little to no value, because the physiology of dogs is so much different than that of humans, and there are far better methods, such as stem cell research, that provide much greater information. But there’s an entire industry in the United States that has no purpose but to breed dogs into life—they create life. Those dogs have no purpose but to serve as objects of experimentation. They’re kept in small cages, often never being removed from their cages, experimented on in the most horrific ways. And then, when their usage is done as experimental objects, they’re simply killed. It’s incredibly immoral to create life for no reason other than to experiment on a living being that, as anyone who has dogs knows, is capable of all kinds of emotional complexity and suffering.

We were able to report on these activists who entered Ridglan Farms, which is a large farm just west of Madison, Wisconsin, where beagles, which are the preferred breed because they’ve been bred to be docile and sweet and trusting of humans, are kept by the thousands and sold to research facilities at the University of California, to corporations around the world, with very few standards about what is done to them and to the suffering that they endure.

And it’s amazing because there’s lots of controversy in the U.S. We love to protest dog meat festivals in China and South Korea, and act very morally outraged over the news reports that we read about that, as we should—it is horrible. But here in the United States, you know, there is an entire industry that subjects those dogs to methods that are just as horrible in terms of the pain and suffering they endure, purely for commercial profit.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Glenn, could you talk about Sonny Perdue, President Trump’s nominee to—appointee to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture, his oversight role and his own record?

GLENN GREENWALD: Sure. So, Sonny Perdue, who is now the secretary of agriculture under Donald Trump, is a very typical appointee, not just for the Trump administration, but for administrations for several decades, in which he comes from the very industry that he is now charged with regulating and overseeing.

When he was governor of Georgia, he was a huge recipient of agribusiness donations, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He himself comes from that industry. He owned farms. He was, I believe, a veterinarian or a scientist who cared for animals, but then, in his adult life, started profiteering off of agribusiness and then became a favored candidate of that industry. And that’s the reason that he was chosen.

And it’s amazing, Juan, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, like all Cabinet agencies, has within it an inspector general whose job is to investigate its own agency and determine their own compliance with the law. And every five years, starting in 1995, then 2000, 2005, 2010, 2015, the inspector general has said the same thing, which is that the Department of Agriculture’s enforcement of even the minimal treatment requirements for animals who are subject to experimentation, including dogs, has been so lax and so permissive that there’s no incentive for corporations even to abide by the law, because even when they purposefully and systematically violate it, they barely get fined at all.

And like so many things, it’s gotten somewhat worse under the Trump administration. But it’s a continuation of what’s been going on for decades in this country when it comes to the treatment of animals for corporate profit. And Sonny Perdue is just a really vivid example of the revolving-door sleaze that is corrupting our democracy and corrupting Washington, because it’s sort of exactly like putting the people who are most vested in allowing these industries to get away with things in charge of enforcing the laws that apply to them

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, I wanted to turn to a video produced by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, about their investigation into dog experimentation by Liberty Research Incorporated.

NARRATOR: If you were to drive by this cluster of buildings, you might never imagine the pain and misery behind their walls—dogs with holes drilled into their heads, cats suffocated under flipped-over litter boxes, dogs injected with insecticides. This is what was documented by a PETA eyewitness at Liberty Research, a laboratory hired by companies to conduct experiments on hundreds of dogs and cats each year.

Liberty also breeds thousands of animals to sell for experimentation to veterinary pharmaceutical giants, government agencies and universities. Hundreds of animals at Liberty are treated like inanimate laboratory tools and forced to suffer in experiments each year, even when well-established non-animal methods are available.

In one experiment, young dogs were injected with megadoses of an opioid. They became lethargic and refused to eat. In another experiment, a drill was used to bore holes into the skulls of 30 dogs so that distemper virus could be injected into their brains. Some dogs whimpered during the painful procedure, indicating that they were not properly anesthetized. A senior worker said that one of the dogs repeatedly banged her head on the cage floor, and others foamed at the mouth or had seizures.

In an experiment sponsored by Intervet, a subsidiary of Merck, workers injected an insecticide into dogs. Liberty’s clients include Merial, Bayer, Merck, the USDA, Michigan State University and the Universities of Pittsburgh, Florida and Louisville, among others.

AMY GOODMAN: That video produced by PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Before we move on to break, your final comment on this, Glenn?

GLENN GREENWALD: So, you know, I think that we need to have a reckoning with ourselves about what it is that we believe we’re willing to permit when it comes to the treatment of living beings with the capacity to feel pain and suffering. There’s a wide range of debate about whether you should be a vegan or a vegetarian or whether it’s morally permissible to eat meat. But you can set that debate aside for these purposes, and I think we should all agree that the kind of gratuitous torture that is being imposed on a corporate and systemic-wide basis in the United States on all kinds of animals is just morally unconscionable and shameful, and we all have the responsibility to put a stop to it.

AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, we’re going to break and then come back to talk to you about other issues, from the Mueller investigation to what’s happening with Julian Assange. Is Ecuador trying to force him out of the embassy in London? Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Back with him in 30 seconds.

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