Protesters at Camp Beagle in Cambridgeshire call for puppies bred for animal testing to be freed

  • Watch Matthew Hudson's report for ITV News Anglia

Animal rights activists camping outside a puppy breeding centre have called for assurances that hundreds of healthy dogs will not be killed because they are too old for lab experiments.

MBR Acres, the breeding facility in Huntingdon owned by biomedical research company Marshall BioResources, said there was no truth to the claim and accused protesters of spreading falsehoods about the company.

The dispute is the latest flashpoint between the company and activists who are part of so-called Camp Beagle, which has been in place outside the site in Wyton near Huntingdon since July 2021.

The demonstrations have attracted the attention of celebrity animal rights campaigners, including comedian Ricky Gervais, and singer Will Young, who joined protesters in November.

Will Young spoke to ITV News Anglia about why he was protesting at the site in November. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The group claims that although experiments do not take place at MBR Acres, up to 2,000 beagles are kept at there, before being shipped out in crates at 16 weeks old to be used for drug and chemical testing.

Footage filmed by campaigners shows vocal protests as lorries thought to contain the dogs leave the site. The company has been left with problems transporting the animals to research sites.

Ruth Pearce, one of the Camp Beagle protesters, claimed the delays had meant the dogs were no longer suitable for the experiments for which they were bred.

"Now they are too old to be used in lab tests and so they will be put down," she said.

She called for the puppies to be released into the care of animal welfare organisations who could look after them.

"I'm told up to 30,000 people have volunteered to take them in and care for them," she said.

However, a spokesperson for MBR Acres said there was no truth to the protesters' claims that dogs would be put to sleep because of their age.

MBR Acres in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire Credit: ITV Anglia

In a statement, the company said: "There is no truth regarding the activists’ allegations around putting dogs to sleep due to their age. This adds to a long list of false accusations against us.  

"Our business is critical to the continuation of medical and veterinary research in the UK and the UK government have stressed over the past few months the importance of regulatory safety testing before new medicines and treatments are given to human and companion animal volunteers in clinical trials."Those involved in the testing industry say it is strictly regulated and as humane as possible.

Chris Magee, from the society Understanding Animal Research, said that testing new drugs on animals was crucial.

He said: "It is a requirement of the government that the new drugs are tested on animals and they have proven so far to be the best way of predicting safety across most target systems."