Marshall BioResources, also known as Marshall Farms, is one of the world’s largest animal breeding facilities. Located in North Rose, Wayne County, Marshall is a place where tens of thousands of dogs — mostly beagles — along with ferrets, cats, guinea pigs, mini-pigs, and other animals are confined, usually to be sold for experimentation and research. They are typically confined to small cages with wire flooring in windowless sheds.
Over the years, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights (AVAR) and Rise for Animals (formerly named the New England Anti-Vivisection Society) have criticized the conditions at Marshall.
In 2018 and ’19, Marshall received no citations during USDA inspections. By contrast, during the preceding 20 years, it was cited numerous times for federal Animal Welfare Act violations. But even when places like Marshall receive no citations, this does not necessarily mean the animals are treated well. For example, forcing dogs to live in cages with wire flooring that provide little more than enough space for animals to sit, stand, lay down and turn around won’t result in a USDA citation unless the cages are dirty, rusty or in need of repair.
Rise for Animals recently investigated what happens after Marshall ships the animals throughout America and the world. The research they are subjected to includes experiments in which they have to ingest or inhale toxic chemicals, invasive experiments like severing dogs’ spinal roots, cutting off their tails, and implanting electrodes on their bladders — usually without pain control.
In one experiment revealed by Rise for Animals, 40 beagle puppies from Marshall had tubes forced down their throats and into their stomachs every day for a year so that experimenters could fill them with cannabis extract. Seven of the puppies died due to “reflux and aspiration of stomach contents and/or formulated treatment into lungs.”
Some readers may think “Aw c’mon, Joel. Give us something more pleasant to read.” OK, I’ll do that — next time. I actually prefer to write about happier topics. But public awareness of goings-on that we would prefer not to know about is a prerequisite for a possibility of humane and moral progress.
Just as much of this essay isn’t pleasant to read, it certainly isn’t pleasant to write about cruelty to animals. But if I ignored the voice of my conscience, I would suffer a lot more.
When Jesus reminded us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he didn’t say that humans are the only “others” that matter. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. admonished us to “Never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our souls when we look the other way.”
The tragedy of large-scale animal breeding operations and the entire vivisection industry is enlarged by the fact that the awful exploitation of animals for experimentation and research is not the best — or even the least expensive — way to get the job done. Modern humane alternatives exist that provide more authentic, reliable, and expeditious data, and that eliminate the unnecessary and horrific cruelty that vivisection perpetuates. And since our government spends huge sums of money to support the kind of animal-based experimentation and research described above, we taxpayers are paying for it.
Whenever I write about the darker side of human behavior, I try to keep in mind the words of Amy Blount Achor who, in her book “Animal Rights: A Beginner’s Guide,” wrote, “The human heart, though capable of allowing gross atrocities, has an equal capacity for love and kindness. The human mind is capable of extraordinary insight and creativity. We have the power of choice, and that is a great power indeed. We need only keep our eyes, our minds, and our hearts open, and have the courage to live our convictions.”
As individuals and as a nation, let’s choose kindness over cruelty.