• Carmen Marie Fabio

Animal rights' protest in Baie d'Urfé


PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO

Close to 100 protesters turned out in the industrial section of Baie d’Urfé beginning at noon, March 17, to protest alleged animal mistreatment at International Toxicology Research (ITR) Laboratories following video footage that was obtained by California-based ‘Last Chance for Animals’ advocacy group.

The footage, broadcast on CTV’s W5 Investigative news program March 11 contains disturbing footage of pigs, beagles, and monkeys, being roughly handled, slapped, and physically thrown in the process of being used as test subjects for substances destined for use in medications including cancer-fighting drugs.

“Today we’re protesting against the atrocities going on inside this building here,” said organizer Robert Boisvert of 269life Canada, an animal rights group. “It’s sad enough that the animals are going through (the testing) but they’re also being slapped around.” Boisvert said he had spoken to an ex-employee of the laboratory on Clark-Graham Avenue who claims that as far back as 2008 there were cases of mistreatment of the animals.

“When people are caught abusing the animals, they’re very quickly let go,” said Boisvert. “The problem is that they (ITR) hire a lot of people from overseas with no experience with animals and pay them a low wage. It just doesn’t make sense that the animals should suffer more than they already are. They’re treated worse than agricultural animals.”

Montreal police officers and Serca private security firms were stationed in front of ITR for the duration of the protest as protesters shouted slogans and cries of “Shame!” from their lineup across the street.

A number of protesters had their own canine companions in tow including Sally Bochner of ‘Caring Paws Animal Therapy.’

“We’re here to show our support. The Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) is responsible for monitoring this kind of business and we’re wondering how this kind of thing took place on their watch.”

The CCAC is the organization responsible for overseeing the standards for animal ethics and care in science in Canada. They released a statement March 11, without naming ITR, which states in part, “A special assessment visit of the institution in question has been organized and is currently being carried out in order to obtain all of the facts.”

ITR Senior Vice President Ginette Bain told Your Local Journal, “We have been in touch with the CCAC, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Wildlife Protection Agency. They were in our facility immediately after the W5 report.”

Bain said all employees at ITR were asked to watch the video and commended W5 for its investigative reporting. “They presented the information very well and it’s a needed debate to have regarding the use of animals in medical research. This is a discussion we are prepared to have and hope it will hasten the development of alternative (testing) methods that regulators will accept for registration of new drugs.”

Bain said her company also provides in vitro testing to reduce animal testing but it’s in the preliminary stages and pharmaceutical companies must submit results that have been derived from animal testing.

Bain confirmed that the two employees who committed the aggressive acts against the animals were immediately dismissed, and explained the incident in question had happened on a weekend shift when there was only a skeleton staff.

“The employees and I were as shocked as the public to see the actions in that video.”

Bain went on to say she, and ITR, respected the voices of the protesters. “They will probably advance the cause by putting pressure on the scientific community to do better and we are in agreement with that.”

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