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The Beagle Freedom Project

You know about animal testing in the abstract. Maybe you have cringed away from pictures of animals in cages, strapped to machinery, with tubes dangling from their veins, sad-eyed and sitting on wire mesh for their entire lives.

But it's quite another thing to see two former lab test subjects step outside for the first time in their entire lives. This 8 minute video is heartbreaking and happy and incredibly sad, all at once. It features two beagles (named Freedom and Bigsby by their rescuers) filmed the first time they left their crates and experienced the outdoors.

At first, neither beagle budges from their shipping crates. Presumably this behavior is one of the few things trained into them at the testing labs. Eventually, with much coaxing, one of the beagles hesitantly steps out onto the grass. Having only ever felt wire mesh beneath his feet, he walks spraddle-legged, startled, like a dog who cannot figure which way his feet should go.

It's reminiscent of a dog's first experience with snow or ice. He seems worried that the grass might slide away from him. For all he knows, it will! The second dog sits stoically against the back wall of his crate with a thousand-yard stare. Until the first beagle makes his way over and entices his pal outside.

Cut to two beagles running madly around the yard in circles, their tails flailing with joy.

This moment was brought to you by the Beagle Freedom Project, a new offshoot of Animal Rescue Media & Education (ARME). A project so wonderful that I'm willing to overlook their use of the hideous font Mistral in their website header. The Beagle Freedom Project's  goal is two-fold: first, to offer amnesty of a sort to laboratory beagles and find new homes for them after their laboratory lifespan is over. (Typically a lab beagle will be put to sleep when the trial run ends, because you can't re-use them for a new series of trials.) And second, to educate the public about the animals being used as test subjects.

Beagles are the preferred breed for laboratory trials because of their "friendly, docile, trusting, forgiving, people-pleasing personalities." Most laboratory beagles come from breeders who produce dogs specifically for the animal research market. These breeders receive up to $750 per dog. (All of which only reinforces my belief that we, as a species, are not deserving of dogs.)

This may sound like a quixotic, idealistic, silly project - a drop in the bucket at best. But remember that in the beginning, people thought that greyhound rescue advocates were a bunch of kooks, too.

My only concern is the same quiet worry I have about greyhound rescue. I worry that people use it as a form of ethical whitewashing. I've heard people say they used to be against greyhound racing but they aren't any longer, because the retired greyhounds get adopted out to new homes.

What if people start feeling the same way about the cosmetics industry? I'm not saying we shouldn't find these dogs homes - in fact, I want one for myself! I'm just saying we need to keep the focus on ending animal testing, and not let people forget that those sweet dogs had to endure atrocities that we can never imagine.