By Joy Lee ,The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Emmy Award-winning American actor Alec Baldwin recently wrote to the agriculture minister to ask for the cancellation of the scheduled rabies experiment on beagle puppies.
According to the Council of Agriculture (COA), 14 healthy beagle puppies will be chosen to be bitten by ferret-badgers infected with the rabies virus in order to find out if the rabies virus discovered in Taiwan could also be transmitted to dogs. The announcement has triggered protests from local animal rights activists as well as received international attention.
In Baldwin’s letter to COA Minister Chen Bao-ji (陳保基), he wrote that “I have two dogs myself and want them to be safe from the threat of rabies, so I understand your concern about the recent rabies outbreak in Taiwan and your desire to protect the city’s animals and humans. “But infecting beagle puppies with this new strain of rabies isn’t the answer, since we already know that all variants can infect any warm-blooded animals. “The best way to stem Taiwan’s recent outbreak is an all-out effort by the Taiwanese government to urge its citizens to vaccinate the country’s many vulnerable dogs and cats.” In addition to Baldwin, “Nikita” actress Maggie Q also wrote to Chen this September, urging the COA to put a halt on the rabies experiments on beagle puppies.
The Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a U.S. nonprofit organization that promotes alternatives to animal research, started a petition to oppose the rabies experience on dogs on Change.org, with 45,000 signatures collected thus far.
PCRM President Dr. Neal Barnard wrote that “the Taiwanese Council of Agriculture wants to test whether a new strain of rabies will spread from ferret-badgers to dogs. It aims to inject rabies into at least 14 puppies, and it is hoping that the world will turn a blind eye to this awful experiment. “There are many (experiments) that first vaccinated dogs for rabies and then used a humanely obtained blood sample from those animals to test whether they’d developed protective antibodies to the virus. It’s what the COA should do to prevent the beagle puppies from dying a gruesome death from rabies.
“If the Taiwanese government truly wants to avert a public health crisis, it should begin an aggressive rabies vaccination campaign and ask all citizens of Taiwan to vaccinate their dogs and other animals.” The COA has not set a date for the rabies experiment on beagles so far, and experts who do not work for the government have been invited to join a committee to decide whether planned rabies experiments on animals should go ahead.