In December 2014 Dr Andre Menache presented evidence in a Dutch court of justice as an expert witness in defence of five animal rights persons who released six beagles destined for animal experiments.
Based on the information that the animal rights people had, these dogs were destined for toxicity tests categorised as ‘severe’. These are experiments where some animals are expected to die before the end of the study.
The six dogs were rescued from a private property on the night between 9 and 10 April 2013 and immediately transferred to loving homes. The five people involved turned themselves in to the police the following morning and confessed their actions but did not reveal the location of the rescued dogs.
The dog rescuers were found guilty of theft and will be sentenced on 22 December. It is likely that they will receive a community service order and be required to repay the value of the the stolen beagles (around one thousand euros per dog).
What was interesting at the trial was the fact that the judge was willing to hear a scientist speaking against animal experiments. Dr Menache’s role was to describe to the court the nature and suffering of these experiments and the fact that there are alternative ways of conducting this sort of research. Equally interesting was the fact that the public.
prosecutor, having heard statements about the feelings of dogs from the defence lawyer and some of the dog rescuers, at one point corrected herself. Instead of referring to dogs as ‘beasts’ (which is their legal definition), she corrected herself and used the term ‘animal’.
Perhaps it is about time for the law to raise the status of animals from beasts or mere property to that of sentient beings worthy of respect and the five RSPCA freedoms (with which we are familiar in the UK).