Council of Agriculture (COA) Minister Chen Bao-ji says that animal testing is inevitable when it comes to combating rabies. But he says the council will try to limit its testing subjects to rats and ferret-badgers before deciding whether they need to use beagles in the experiments.
Chen made the comment on Monday after media reported that American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres had written to the COA, asking the Taiwanese government not to use beagle puppies in science experimentation.
Ellen is not the first Hollywood star to voice her concern to the COA. Last October, Alec Baldwin and Maggie Q both wrote letters urging Taiwan not to conduct rabies tests on live animals.
The COA minister said he has yet to receive the letter from Ellen, but he explained that the strand of rabies virus in Taiwan is unique, so conducting animal testing is crucial in understanding the virus and preventing its spread. The council has said that animal rights experts will participate in the experiments to protect the rights of the test subjects.
Taiwan reported its first cases of rabies last July. The country had not seen the disease in more than 50 years.