To Whom It May Concern
Reference is made to your e-mail regarding your concern about the issue of animal tests on rabies in Taiwan.
To protect people and animals from rabies, the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) set up a rabies prevention network immediately after a wildlife disease monitoring program detected rabies among the Taiwan ferret badger (TFB) population in July 2013. In line with the international blueprint for rabies prevention and control, it has informed both domestic and international veterinary and public health organizations, as well as the general public, about the situation and implemented an intensive surveillance and vaccination program.
Taiwan has been recognized by the international community as rabies-free for the past 50 years. The results of the genomic sequence analysis of the pathogen performed after the current outbreak, which occurred in the island's mountainous areas, revealed that it differs from the rabies viruses found in neighboring countries. The government therefore sought advice from domestic and foreign professional organizations and individuals renowned for their expertise in rabies control. The overwhelming majority, including the World Organization for Animal Health, agreed that animal testing is crucial for clarifying the pathogenicity and disease symptoms in host animals, facilitating epidemiological traceability, formulating major prevention and control strategies, establishing long-term preventive measures, and preventing new types of diseases.
According to the statistics published by the World Health Organization, approximately 55,000 people die from rabies virus infection annually. About 90% of them are infected by scratching or being bitten by rabid dogs. The pathogenicity, incubation period and symptoms of this new type of rabies virus in Taiwan are yet to be clarified. We are thus planning to conduct animal tests regarding the pathogenicity of this new type of rabies virus on the canine species. The finding would provide veterinarians and the general public with a better understanding of the pathogenicity and symptoms of the new rabies virus infecting the canine species in order to prevent further infections.
Based upon the aforesaid reasons, the government decided to implement the relevant animal tests. All tests will be carried out using scientifically rigorous methods and with strict adherence to the 'three Rs'-replacing (the use of animals with alternative techniques), reducing (the number of animals used), and refining (the procedures to reduce pain and distress), and the ROC Animal Protection Law. In addition, the competent authorities exercise stringent oversight.
Although the ferret badger is found throughout Southeast Asia, regrettably little international research on this animal has been done. Given Taiwan's extensive research experience and achievements in biotechnology, however, the collaboration between government, academia, and industry is geared toward developing highly effective strategies for rabies prevention and control. This will provide neighboring countries with an important reference for introducing similar programs.
The ROC government appreciates all the comments and suggestions it has received from various quarters, and has conveyed these to the competent authorities. Protecting the health and welfare of all creatures on this planet is very important, and the government is committed to fulfilling its obligations as a responsible member of the international community.
Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan
From: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2014 10:05 PM
Subject: Halt Plans to Give Rabies to Beagle Puppies
Jun 5, 2014
Minister Chen Bao-ji
Dear Minister Bao-ji,
I am writing to ask that the Council of Agriculture halt plans to give rabies to beagle puppies. The proposed experiments are cruel and unnecessary. Rabies research can and should be conducted without harming animals.
If the experiments go forward, these unfortunate animals will have to endure the severe effects of the rabies virus, which include anxiety, confusion, painful muscle spasms, paralysis, and death. Instead, the Council of Agriculture should be working to determine whether current rabies vaccines are also protective against this strain of the virus.
Nonanimal laboratory procedures can address this issue quickly, without killing any animals.
Please end plans for these cruel experiments on puppies.
Thank you for your consideration.