After PETA undertook a seven-month investigation into an Envigo dog-breeding facility in Cumberland, Va., where they found many beagles bred for experimentation were kept in appalling conditions, US federal officials made an unannounced inspection in the summer of 2021 and found dozens of animal welfare violations. These include unhygienic kennels, 50 dogs with fight wounds, and records suggesting hundreds of puppies had died of “unknown causes”. But so far, it seems the company is getting away with it. 

Agents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service found more than 500 dogs kept experiencing “discomfort, lethargy or stress” because the temperature was above 85 degrees for at least five hours. However, despite the fact many of PETA’s findings have now been corroborated by officials, it appears that no fines or penalties have been issued so far. An Envigo spokesperson said to the Washington Post the company has been working with the USDA to correct the issues it outlined, adding “The highest quality of animal welfare is a core value of our company.”

Since 2016, beagles from this facility, 50 miles west of Richmond, have been experimented on at the US Food and Drug Administration, Temple University, the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of Missouri, and Level Biotechnology in Taiwan, among other labs. Since September 2020, the National Institute of Health (NIH) has awarded three contracts to Envigo for live dogs. An NIH spokesperson confirmed to the Washington Post that the agency had purchased animals from the Envigo facility in the past, “but no future purchases are planned.”

Daphna Nachminovitch, PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations, said: “If the puppies at Envigo survive being born into a barren cage, blasted with a high-pressure hose, and being subjected to painful procedures, they’re sold to laboratories to be experimented on…These beagles experience exactly the same feelings of fear, pain, and loneliness as the dogs who share our homes can, and none of them should suffer in the experimentation business.

If in the end, this company ends up only with a slap on the wrist, this case highlights the inadequacy of the current regulatory system which seems designed to legitimise animal cruelty. In other words, any country claiming to have high standards of animal welfare in its animal experimentation industry may only mean that it allows a great deal of animal suffering without the risk anybody will be punished for it.  

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.