Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Six beagle puppies saved by the NAVS


In an elaborate sting, six beagle puppies were saved by the NAVS from being sold for experiments by international lab dealer Interfauna in Cambridgeshire; film was taken of the breeding areas.

Beagles Saved and International Trade in Lab Animals Exposed - NAVS undercover investigation and animal rescue, 1994

Every year some 7,000 (Home Office Stats 2001) experiments are performed on dogs in the UK every year. The majority are beagles, reared in intensive farming conditions by specialist dealers. The United Kingdom is a major international centre of trade in laboratory animals. Beagle puppies from the UK go all over the world.

This is the story of six very lucky beagle puppies who made it out alive... the story of ‘Operation Release’:

A NAVS undercover investigation of Toxicol Laboratories in Herefordshire, had revealed that beagle puppies were force-fed weedkiller that had already been tested on animals previously, and had been passed as safe under UK and international legislation, and which has been on sale for 20 years. The beagles at Toxicol were supplied by two dealers - Consort in Herefordshire and Interfauna in Cambridgeshire.

Plans to expose Interfauna took a dramatic turn when the NAVS was approached by the ‘News of the World’ newspaper, eager to expose the trade in lab animals and to save some dogs from research. If the NAVS could find a way, the newspaper would pay for the pups. ‘Operation Release’ was under way.

The objective was to investigate and expose the activities of Interfauna, and save at least one consignment of pups from their terrible fate. Interfauna was the animal dealer of choice, because they are one of Europe’s largest supplier of lab animals, producing nearly a million animals a year; they send 2,800 beagle puppies (1994 figures), averagely between 3 and 6 months old, to their deaths in laboratories all over Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East.

The first step was to set up a front. We established ‘Tunstall and Smith’, a London-based firm of agents who approached Interfauna on behalf of a bogus laboratory we had created in San Remo, Italy, ‘Laboratorio di Richerca San Remo’. Our ‘client’ needed three male and three female beagle puppies aged between four and five months old.

Interfauna took the bait and faxed through a quote to the Tunstall and Smith offices. The pups would cost #481 each plus travel crates, veterinary certification and VAT. Bob Coley, General Manager and a Director of Interfauna, was now dealing directly with ‘Pauline Wright’/ ‘Anne Smith’ and ‘Jack Turnstall’ - in reality Jan Creamer, the NAVS’ Director, and Neville Thurlbeck, journalist with the News of the World.

Coley said that he was concerned that he did not want to fall into a ‘trap set by animal rights people’. To ally his suspicions, he raised many obstacles, which brought into play more of the SID team, six in all, all working to create more elaborate levels of cover, including a freight agent at an airport.

Finally it was time to collect the dogs. Jan Creamer and Neville Thurlbeck, met with Bob Coley at the Interfauna offices on Huntingdon Industrial Estate, accompanied by their van driver. Tim Phillips, co-ordinator of the NAVS’ Special Investigations Department, set up a central control at a local house liaising with “Italy", the “London Office” and the “van driver".

After a brief chat at Interfauna’s offices to get to know one another, Coley, Jan and Neville got into the various vehicles for a fast drive to the farm to collect the dogs.

After days of negotiation, we were finally driving through the security gates of Cambell Farms, Interfauna’s breeding operation on Abbots Ripton Road, Wyton, Cambs. Past the barbed wire, past the rottweillers, we drove our van around to the back of the office building, where our six puppies waited, already huddled up in their transport cages in the back of an open van.

Coley agreed to give Jan and Neville a guided tour of three dog units. Each had rows of steel pens running down either side of a central aisle.

Jan reports: “We drove from the area where we loaded our pups to the production units we were to view in Coley’s car."

"We parked and followed him, past some skips full of incredibly smelly rubbish. We had to jump a little stream of foul-smelling liquid. Coley explained that the skips were full of excrement, and when it rains, the water washes down through these, creating this unpleasant stream."

"The first and second units were mothers with pups at varying stages. Some pups were older and had been separated, probably into groups of ‘youths’. The problems with this is that weaker animals cannot escape the dominant ones.

In the second unit, a mother gave birth as we watched. She had just bare metal walls, a concrete floor with the thinnest scattering of sawdust. Coley explained that she could not be given a box or bed as some of the others with older pups had, because she would hide her pups behind it. I felt sorry for her. She was shivering: it was difficult to tell whether this was from cold or fear. She had no prospect of help, nor comfort, from either her own species or ours. There was no-one in the building but us. She was so sad.

They were the saddest beagles I have ever seen. So subdued and timid. Those that had the wooden boxes hid away from us. Even the friendlier ones did not give the usual boisterous beagle greeting."

As we know from previous investigations, suppliers must constantly breed animals in order to meet the demands of their customers for animals of particular ages and sizes. This leads to a lot of ‘waste’ animals. Other investigations confirm that these animals are usually simply killed.

And then it was time to leave and six nervous little puppies were being driven out through the Interfauna gates. But instead of taking their first step on the road to hell, and death in a foreign laboratory as Interfauna believed, these six very, very lucky puppies were actually taking their first step to freedom and happiness.

Soon they were being carefully unloaded at their overnight stop where they would find kind words, toys and soft beds. They were to be placed in an especially clean environment, checked physically, and their cage cards checked for vaccinations and other health details.

With elation sweeping the NAVS team, a call was made to the NAVS’ London HQ. “The beagles have landed."

Cautiously and nervously, the pups explored their new home. We let them take their own time to come out of their transport crates. Chloe (no. 7349) was nervous from the start, preferring to wait and see how the other pups got on before she ventured out. Eric (7341) and Jonesy (7398) were the first to start exploring, and were soon followed by Pascal (7355), Poppy (7379), Nat (7422) and finally Chloe. None of the pups are related.

From a world where there were just four steel walls and hard floor to one of infinite possibilities. They were intrigued by distance and space. Within an hour they had found their first toy - a fantastic paper bag, which was of course shredded in a frenzied game involving all six. After some rest, a little pelleted food resembling the food they had been raised on, another game, and then it was time to sleep. After all, even if they didn’t quite realise it, this had been a momentous day. The six curled up on top of each other on their new beds.

The next day everyone was in fine health, so it was time to see the outside world for the first time. The door was opened and the pups stood peeking out. A courageous Jonesy warily padded out, followed by Eric, then another, and then finally all six. After fifteen minutes of cautious exploration, the joy of it all took over, as they raced around the garden like any other puppies. They had never seen grass, sky, the sun, shrubs, or trees; all were a fascination as their young noses were greeted by a whole host of scents.

Labs often claim that laboratory animals cannot be rehabilitated and are not suited to family life. This is another lie from the vivisectors. The six beagle puppies were all homed in pairs with loving families and settled perfectly to a domestic life.

The pups were homed in pairs with loving families, matched by personality - Jonesey and Pasca (Pascal) are together; Poppy and Nat with another family; Eric and Chloe with another.


After a long and happy life with Kath and Jack Isherwood, Poppy has died. Jack Isherwood died recently, and Poppy’s ashes will be spread on his grave. Nat remains healthy, still together with Kath Isherwood.

Several of the beagles have had health problems in later life, but to some extent this was expected. However, the compensation is that they have all had a wonderful life, instead of certain death in the laboratory.

© Animal Defenders International 2019