Camp Beagle protest: Leeds activists join animal rights protest as they call for release of MBR Acres dogs

Animal rights activists took to Leeds city centre today as part of a national protest.

Members of Camp Beagle held placards and handed out flyers on Commercial Street, as outreach events took place in 73 other locations across the country.

Camp Beagle is calling for the release of beagle dogs at MBR Acres in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, which rears dogs specifically for medical research.

Home Office inspection reports have found "no evidence of distress" among the animals and concluded that the centre complies with all legal requirements.

Camp Beagle members Jess Hall, left, and Rachel Watson, right, with Oscar the beagle

But the activists in Leeds, who had gathered from across West Yorkshire, want to see a total ban on animal testing for research.

They were asking members of the public to sign a petition to release the beagles at MBR Acres, which is owned by biomedical research company Marshall BioResources.

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Rachel Watson, who owns two beagles, became aware of the group 10 months ago and now works to recruit new members online.

Members of Camp Beagle held placards and handed out flyers on Commercial Street, Leeds city centre

"We wanted to make a really big impact today," she told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

"We need Government funding. Animal Free Research UK uses organs-on-a-chip, for example, but it’s all charity-based.

"If the Government pushed more funding its these advanced, pioneering technologies that we could use, then animal testing won’t be needed anymore.”

Volunteer Jess Hall added: "As a nation of dog lovers, we want people to be aware of what’s happening in this day and age.

“We’re in a modern society and there’s so much modern technology. The change is needed and we need to make it happen.”

UK law bans research using animals if an alternative method can be used and Marshall BioResources said that, in some cases, there is still no "suitable validated alternative".

The Camp Beagle protest camp, which has been set up outside MBR Acres for more than a year, hit the headlines last November after singer Will Young was involved in a demonstration.

Five dogs were stolen from the research facility in June, a High Court hearing heard, and there is now an injunction to prevent protesters entering an exclusion zone around the site.

“We want to be peaceful, that’s what today is all about," Rachel, 35, added.

"We just want to talk to people and we don’t want to frighten anyone off.

"I wouldn’t say I support violence or any breaking the law, but I think something needs to change - and it needs to change now.”

Marshall BioResources accused Camp Beagle protesters of "trying to force an end to medical progress."

In a statement, a spokesperson said: "MBR Acres is a fully licensed establishment, carrying out our lawful business providing dogs for legally required medical safety testing.

"Our animals are happy, healthy, and well cared-for, as evidenced by numerous inspection reports from the Home Office.

“Dog-owners who protest against us should remember that all the vaccines, worming tablets, antibiotics, and other veterinary treatments that they have given to their pets have been tested on dogs like the ones bred here.

“Until the legal requirements change, we will continue to breed animals for use in medical research.

"We remain proud of what we do every day because our work allows the progress of medicine to improve – and often save – the lives of humans and animals.”