Towards an educated discourse

New Facebook groups come to Dalhousie's defence

By Marilyn Smulders - August 27, 2007

Dr. Sylvia Craig
"Using animals for research is a privilege and a responsibility that Dalhousie University takes very seriously," says Sylvia Craig, University Director of Animal Care. (Pearce photo)

A Facebook group alleging the murder of dogs and puppies at Dalhousie is back, but so are a number of new groups on the other side of the issue.

After Facebook shut down "Stop Dogs and Puppies from being murdered at Dalhousie University" last Wednesday, the group and its discussion wall reappeared two days later. The group now has more than 21,000 members.

The group's creator claims dogs and puppies are being used in research at Dalhousie and urges people to sign an online petition.

In fact, Dalhousie does not use dogs in any university research. Nor was the group's photo which shows at forlorn Beagle pup in a cage taken at the university.

"When the original Facebook group came back on, we decided enough was enough. Someone has to stick their necks out and do something about it," says Mike Wong, who is going into his third year of neuroscience studies at Dalhousie. "I work in a psych lab here at Dal, and everyone was at various points of enragement."

Mr. Wong's group is called Stop People From Spreading Lies About Animal Cruelty at Dalhousie. Created on Saturday, it has 300 members and is growing quickly. Another new group, Dalhousie University Supporters: Dogs and Puppies are Not Being Murdered, went up on Sunday.

"Educated and civilized level of discourse"

Mr. Wong, who works in a Dalhousie laboratory on an NSERC internship, says he and fellow Dal students want to encourage a more "educated and civilized level of discourse" on the issue of animal research. When he added comments to the wall on the "Stop Dogs..." group, his posts were answered with "immature replies, insults and obscenities." Other posts the creator doesn't agree with are hidden and marked as "irrelevant."

"People respond in a really emotional fashion," he says. "But what dismays me is that Dalhousie is being smeared. These negative opinions about Dal are being formed on baseless lies."

Dalhousie abides by the most stringent systems for monitoring animal welfare in the country. The University Committee on Laboratory Animals (UCLA), comprised of Dalhousie scientists, veterinarians and external community members, approves all proposed projects involving animals in conjunction with guidelines laid out by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC).

Top quality care to research animals

"Using animals for research is a privilege and a responsibility that Dalhousie University takes very seriously," says Sylvia Craig, University Director of Animal Care. "In accordance with guidelines established by the Canadian Council on Animal Care, all animal research conducted at Dalhousie must first be evaluated to make sure it is ethical and has a valid scientific purpose.

"Although almost everyone would prefer not to use animals for research, it remains true that most medical advances depend on the use of animals at some level.  Dalhousie has a dedicated staff of animal care technicians and veterinarians who provide top quality care to research animals."

Dalhousie facilities are monitored by the CCAC in scheduled and unscheduled visits to ensure that optimal standards for the humane care and treatment of animals are maintained.

"Dalhousie is not using dogs and puppies in research, so the group's fundamental premise is factually incorrect," adds Charles Crosby, university spokesperson. "We're following this situation very closely and are talking to legal counsel about our options.

"But we respect that some degree of dialogue is now able to take place. We're inspired that many members of the Dalhousie community and beyond are using this opportunity to engage in critical and thoughtful debate on the subject. We hope that their reasoned efforts are able to break through the digital clutter and inform others about the research that takes place here at Dalhousie."


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