Smoking Beagles

SUNDAY PEOPLE, January 26, 1975

The grim truth about that search for your safe cigarette

THE pitiful row of beagles, trussed up and forced to smoke cigarette after cigarette fixed in the masks. This exclusive picture shows how each helpless animal is identified by name. For Josephine it is a moment of respite before her mask is fixed.


Hell of helpless chain-smokers

INVESTIGATION by MARY BEITH who worked in Britain’s animal labs to get these disturbing facts

THIS is the price of smoking pleasure,

Rows of beagle dogs, trussed up and masked, and each compelled to smoke up to 30 cigarettes a day.

Smoking is not their pleasure. More of a misery.

But the chain-smoking beagles have to puff away relentlessly. As the stubs burn out, new cigarettes are promptly inserted by lab assistants in the grotesque “smoking masks” attached to these unhappy animals.

Some of the dogs go on smoking for up to three years. Then they are killed. All, of course, in the name of research. In this case research into the human pastime known as smoking.

It is part of tests being carried out by Britain’s largest company, Imperial Chemical Industries, on their new “safe” cigarette.

I observed this incredible scene while taking part with other Sunday People investigators in the first-ever probe into animal research laboratories.

A sharp increase in experiments has followed the stringent regulation ordered by the Government’s Dunlop Committee on drug safety.

Ten animals every minute are being used in licensed experiments for research.

Because Britain’s animal researchers do not welcome public attention much of our startling information was gathered by investigators obtaining jobs as laboratory assistants without disclosing their identities.

But nothing we saw was more pitiful than the chain-smoking dogs.

I.C.I. and the massive Imperial Tobacco Company have joined in investing £13 million on a new factory where the cellulose-based “New Smoking Material” – N.S.M. for short – will be used in cigarettes to reduce the health risk in human smokers.

At I.C.I.’s “Dog Toxicity Unit” at Alderley Park, Cheshire, where I took a job, there are 48 beagles smoking variations of ordinary tobacco and N.S.M.

One batch of 12, who have been smoking for two years, are expected to smoke 30 a day. Others smoke only 10 a day.

PART of my job was to get the dogs trussed in fabric slings like strait-jackets.

Their heads were restrained by locking two boards in place, like medieval stocks.

The dogs were then lifted on trolleys to the smoking platform, and the masks, valves and tubes were fixed to their faces.

WE HAD to adjust electronic valves which control the amount of amoke and clear air inhaled by the dogs.

WE HAD to watch flashing lights on the control box which indicate the dog’s breathing and tolerance of the smoke.

WE HAD to help re-fit masks where dogs had struggled free. One tried to bite my hand as I put the muzzle on.

WE HAD to hurry along dogs who got behind with their daily “ration” by adjusting the valves so that the beagles were forced to inhale more smoke to speed up the process.

I was constantly reminded to carry out this procedure.

And when they have finished their smoking stint the dogs are killed and sent to pathology laboratories to be cut up and examined for signs of cancer, liver or heart diseases or other possible effects.

Some of the dogs have acquired a smoker’s cough judging from the sounds I heard.

Some make muffled whines and cries behind their masks. One difficult dog, Buster, had to have an attendant with him all the time. I saw two attendants restraining him, one smacking him with a plastic ruler when he got restless.

One the whole, attendants were sympathetic with the dogs. But naturally the quieter dogs were favourites.

One dog, Rhumbo, never took part in experiments because he was adopted as a pet. A woman attendant told me: “We shouldn’t really keep him here, since he’s not being used. But we keep quiet about him.”

When not strapped to their trolleys, the dogs were confined in rows of small kennels and got very little exercise.

I NEVER saw any of them go outside for a romp. Yet some of the dogs, which came from the I.C.I. breeding unit as puppies, were barely nine months old.

When I was introduced to the smoking unit the supervisor told me: “Some people may not like the idea of dogs being used for experiments but millions of pounds have been invested in the project.”

And the personnel officer told me that rats, guinea-pigs and monkeys were also used in the I.C.I. labs’ experiments on a number of products, including decorating materials.

An I.C.I. spokesman pointed out that the experiments were under veterinary supervision and Home Office rules.

When it was suggested to him that the dogs were being used for research into human pleasure, rather than pure medical research, he said that I.C.I. recognised that smoking was a national phenomenon, whether one liked it or not, and they were trying to produce a substance that would reduce the health danger.

Evidence from Sunday People investigators is being studied by the R.S.P.C.A.’s special committee on animal experiments. Chairman Dr. Kit Pedlar, shown pictures of the smoking tests, said: “To subject dogs to this is unnecessary. We are most concerned at the number of experiments taking place where there is no direct medical benefit.”

The committee’s research officer, Mr. David Pennock, checks published papers on experiments and makes formal visits to research centres. “But he does not penetrate research centres under cover,” said Dr. Pedlar.


EXTRACTS from the laboratory attendants’ instruction leaflet, given to reporter Mary Beith when she took a job at I.C.I.’s dog smoking unit:

    • The ability to place the right inference on the behaviour of animals under test is most important and in cases of emergency it is essential to act quickly to prevent the death of a dog which is likely to be worth several thousands of pounds in research effort……”

    • The operative must constantly observe and be sure the dog is comfortable…Sometimes in the event of the dog becoming particularly distressed she may have to take emergency action, i.e., cardiac massage.”

    • The control boxes and smoking chambers must receive constant attention making sure the valves are not sticking. This is important as the amount of air available for the dog to breathe is regulated by this piece of equipment.

It is essential that the operative can communicate a feeling of confidence to the dog, and by her actions maintain a high degree of trust between them.”

SUNDAY PEOPLE, January 26, 1975

Mary Beith sadly died on May 13th 2012, aged 73.


Here is a statement given to the National Anti-Vivisection Society by a former employee of the ICI Toxicity Testing Laboratories at Alderley Park, Cheshire:-

STATEMENT MADE BY MRS P of MACCLESFIELD, Cheshire to R.D. Marriott, Northern Counties Organiser, National Anti-Vivisection Society Ltd. on Thursday March 6th 1975.

I worked for eighteen months at the ICI Toxicity Testing Laboratories at Alderley Park, Cheshire, as an attendant looking after the Beagle dogs which were being used in the smoking experiments to test a new smoking material (NSM). These dogs have to smoke thirty cigarettes a day in two four hour sessions.

The dogs have to be put into a canvas coat which has holes through which the animals legs go, and it is then fastened over their backs. Their heads are then clamped into a thing like a stocks and a mask fitted over the muzzle. They are made from plastic bottles, with a rubber mould inside and a rubber band to make it air-tight. A cigarette is fitted into the other end so that as the dog has to breathe it inhales the smoke.

The dogs hate them and often try to shake them off. Just imagine having your face fastened in something for hours on end. A lot of them chew the inside of the mask, even though they can’t move their mouths much, as the mask fits tightly. Condensation from the dogs breathing and the smoke eventually stains the muzzle and teeth. Their tongues used to be a horrible colour, the smoke irritates their eyes, they get cramp from standing, and they suffer from stress, boredom and frustration.

I’ll defy anybody to tell me that those dogs look forward to being trussed up like they are, forced to have a mask on their face and smoke. One dog (Wilfred) used to protest all day long. He used to get out of the mask more than he was in it, and he got smacked something awful. Another dog (Bertha) just hated the experiment altogether, and used to drag the box about all the time. It was terrible. One dog had a very sensitive mouth, he was a nervous dog and very distressed at being used in the experiment and he made his mouth bleed by trying to get the mask off. Sometimes, to stop the dogs throwing the masks off, they are fastened too tightly.

Just imagine, having to stand for hours on end with your head in the stocks. If a fly settles on them, or their ear itches, they can’t get to it at all.

These dogs get no regular exercise. Only what they get in the pens. It’s up to the discretion of the attendants, there is no regular provision for exercise. They don’t even walk from the pens to the smoking machines. The canvas coats are put on in the pen, they are fastened onto a trolley and wheeled to the smoking benches. They never walk. We did once suggest that they made a long run at the side of the dog house for exercise but it was never done.

One dog (Wellington) gave trouble right from the beginning and had to be put on a tranquilising drug. This did calm him down but he used to get so lank and miserable while he was on the tablets. Then his stomach started to swell. First they blamed that on him having too much water, then they decided it wasn’t that at all, and in the end they had to take him off the experiment because he became so distressed that he couldn’t smoke anyway even if he managed to keep the mask on. He was panting so much that he could not smoke. The second day I was there his mouth was bleeding. On another occasion, one of the attendants hit him and when I remonstrated with him, he put his fists up to me.

Another dog had worms. Imagine being fastened up like that with worms. It just went like a skeleton and started eating its own faeces. It was given worm tablets, although they are supposed to be wormed every so often. After that we did get a supply of worm tablets.

One dog (Mona) suffered from cystitis and was passing blood in her urine for quite a few weeks. She was always moaning while on the machine. Time and again we told the Supervisor about this dog. We used to make lists of illnesses, put the date on, and everything. One day I had just put Mona back in her pen when she immediately urinated. I saw the blood in it and called the supervisor. I said “Look, the vet is down here now. Just let him see this.” So he had to do so because the vet was there. The vet gave her antibiotics but the Supervisor said “Well, she is going to be put down very soon anyway”. I said “That doesn’t matter. She is entitled to go in peace. She doesn’t need to suffer while she is here just because she is going to die soon”.

Most of the attendants were very good and did their best for the dogs, but a minority were not. Some of them seemed to think that because the dogs were there for experiments, they hadn’t any feelings. We were told once that all the natural instincts had been bred out of them. I have seen these dogs get thumped and kicked, and I’ve fallen out about it many a time. They were often hit with plastic rulers. The supervisor started that by banging his ruler on the bench at the side of the dog to try and frighten it into being quiet and behaving. Then gradually it progressed to hitting the dog with the ruler. He gave the dogs plenty of clouts and I have seen him knuckle them on the heads and pull their ears. Quite apart from the rulers, I have seen many a dog get such a crack from several of the attendants. Some of them seemed to think that just because the animals were going to die anyway, it did not matter if they suffered in the meantime.

One attendant, who used to work in a circus, was one day trying to get one of the dogs onto the smoking machine by sitting astride it as though she was riding a horse. (At first the dogs used to go frantic, jump up and down and pull the boxes over. It must have been a terrifying experience for them). Anyway, she was determined that she was going to be the boss, it was her idea of training, so all she did was to terrify it into submission. That was the sort of thing we had to put up with. If we complained we were told that we were too soft. It’s when they lose their temper that they start to hit the dogs. If a dog gets out of it’s mask, they give them a good smack and force them back in. I have seen them fastened up so tight, it’s a wonder they haven’t screwed their head off. They just want to keep them on smoking, and it is a nuisance to them if they keep coming out of the masks and making them more work.

On one occasion one of the dogs (Buster) had got out of the mask, and in restraining him and refitting the mask the attendant must have held the mask on so tightly that the dog had a fit or something. He went limp, like a faint or something, and the attendant “What on earth has she done?”, She replied “To tell you the truth, on the quiet she has restrained him so much he’s fainted. You know, he’s gone under”. I said “The rotten ********”. The Supervisor came but, of course it was just passed off. That is the sort of thing they do.

When one man belted a dog and made its’ mouth bleed, I even went to Dr. Collin about it. The man said “I only hit it with my book on top of its’ head”. I said “What, and made its’ mouth bleed?” When he belted a dog, and shook it nearly out of its’ skin nearly frightening it to death I was standing next to him. I said “Just because you can’t read your book. Somebody ought to do that to you”. When the Supervisor came, the man said again “I have only hit it on the head with my book” I said “He has nearly shaken it out of its’ skin. And why it its’ mouth bleeding?” he has belted it, and I am not standing here to witness that”. The Supervisor condoned it because he was frightened of them all and wanted to keep in favour. Dr. Collin did not condone it but he did not reprimand the man or do anything about it.

Another dog (Mabel) used to get very frustrated because of her ears which were deformed. The vet explained that they were like cauliflower ears on the inside and they swelled up and irritated her. She was given drops of cream. The vet said that had she been a pet dog she would have been operated on but, as she was on the smoking experiment he wasn’t a hundred percent sure if it would be a success. Also it would not be right to take her off the experiment for so long. She would be so many weeks or months behind.

Incontinence is another problem. Beagles are naturally clean animals but, after standing at these machines for a long time, they often get very restless and you have to let it go back to the pen to go to the toilet. But some of the attendants did not bother because they have to get the dogs down from the machine, unfasten it, take off the canvas coat, take it back to the pen, wait for it to do whatever is necessary, put it back in the coat, onto the trolley back onto the bench and connect it up to the machine again. It all takes a lot of time and the dog then may not get through the correct number of cigarettes in the day. So there was a tendency for a minority of the attendants not to bother. The Supervisor was the worse for that. I suppose it was the pressure put on him.

One dog (Wellington) was on tablets which were making him incontinent and he became very distressed. He would wet as many as four coats one after another and the Supervisor smacked him for it with a ruler. I said “Fancy hitting a dog because it’s wet itself” and he replied “I’ll teach it not to do it again”. I was nearly crying and had to go away.

None of the attendants were qualified Animal Technicians. I was, I think, the only one with any professional skill although I am a nurse which is nothing to do with veterinary work. One of the girls was a veterinary nurse but two of them had worked with a blood bank (just going round carrying blankets. She did not actually take the blood or anything like that) one had worked with a circus, one had had many jobs, one had been a nanny and one was an ex bank clerk. Some of them only do it for the money.

Even the Supervisor who was there first (he has now left) was not a qualified Animal Technician. He was only about 24 and was still going to College. Before coming to us, he used to help with post-mortems on the dogs.

The attendants did not get any formal training, but learnt as they did the job. The new Supervisor is better and I think is qualified.

The dogs have access to water when they are in the pens, but there is nothing laid down about giving them a drink when they are on the machines. It is up to the Attendants. If they are sympathetic and can think what it must feel like to have your mouth fastened up for hours on end, and on top of that having to smoke cigarettes, although we were not supposed to give them water during the smoking period. That is two periods a day of four hours each. I often did and the supervisor would say “Don’t give that dog a drink of water again” or “Let it finish the cigarettes first”.

The dogs were fed one meal a day, at lunchtime. From 12.30 until ten past one when they were put back on the machines. That was the time we used to make sure that they got a drink. Sometimes, by accident, a dog could be put in the wrong pen and immediately eat the other dogs food. Then when it is put in its own pen it also eats its own. So one dog will get no food unless somebody is good enough to give you another tin of food. They also get one biscuit in the afternoon. All they have to live for is their food and a bit of affection from wherever they can get it. They eat their food in two seconds flat.

The experiment is on for five days a week, so at the weekends they only see anyone once a day when they are fed and cleaned out. Again, they are supposed to get a biscuit in the afternoon. One dog (Olly) never ate her biscuits. She had a sweet tooth and I used to give hers to another dog and give her chocolate drops, although I should not have done so.

The dog pens are cleaned by hosing out with water, sometimes with the dogs still in them. The best part of the day was when the dogs could be let down and taken back to the pens. That was beautiful.

They start training puppies for this smoking experiment at about four months old. They were born in April, and some of them in the previous November, and it was August before we started to train them. We had to train them to go onto the boxes and get them ready for the smoking. They had not been used to people at all because they had been herded together while they were in the breeding unit. Then they are suddenly put in a pen on their own. When they do get used to this and you start to approach, they run a mile because they don’t trust you. You have to win their trust to get them fastened onto the box. It is not just a matter of saying “Come along little dog, get on this box”. They just hate it because it is not their nature to have this canvas coat put on and stand on a box with their heads in stocks. Naturally, they start kicking up and waiting to get away. Puppies are very active; it’s not as though it is a grown dog.

Rats were also used in some smoking experiments. When I used to see those poor rats pushed into those bungs, as they called them, with their noses out at one end and their tails out at the other. They were just got hold of and pushed in so that they cannot move. They are there for hours on end. Lighten cigarettes are going round and they are breathing in all the smoke. Then they are taken out and put back in a small cage.

Another thing I saw, which had nothing to do with smoking dogs, was when a colleague asked me to come down and look at a dog that was dying from Paraquat poisoning. They were trying to find an antidote for Paraquat, so this dog was one of the unfortunate ones that had been dosed with Paraquat. I do not understand all about the experiment but they had given certain dogs Paraquat over a period. Then I think they are given something to see if it works as an antidote. My colleague said “They have left it to die like this through the night”. I asked him “Do they want to know how long it takes to die?” My colleague said “No, nothing at all, the man just said “Leave it, it will die tonight”. I then said “But they can’t possibly leave it like this. Why haven’t you told them to give it something?”. He replied “They won’t take any notice of me”. This incident upset me more than anything. I was getting so worked up. The dog was just laid on its side, its tongue hanging out, panting and obviously suffering. I was trying to bathe it, to wet its tongue. This was at a quarter to five in the evening and the next day my colleague told me that the dog had died during the night.

Another thing I heard about (I did not actually see this, but it was common knowledge in the building) was where a man had to drill dogs bones in order to take marrow samples. He did give them the required anaesthetic but was in a hurry and started to drill before the anaesthetic had taken effect, and the dogs were screaming and suffering. No one reported this to the authorities because he was one of the doctors.

In the eighteen months I worked at this laboratory, I saw the Home Office Inspector call at least three or four times although he might also have called when I was not there. We always had notice of when the Home Office Inspector was coming. We were told that he was coming either the next day or the day after, so we always had at least 24 hours notice to prepare. They used to say “Hide the rulers and don’t have the dogs crying”. When the Inspector came, he would just stand and watch the dogs smoking for five or ten minutes. He did not speak to us but he might sometimes speak to the Supervisor. In any case, even if he were to stand there all day, he couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like.

After all the press publicity about the smoking dogs, the Company sent round to all the staff saying that their Laboratory animals were all well cared for. This really stirred me up and sickened me after working amongst it. It was dire hypocrisy. Sickly.

You may wonder why I stuck it for eighteen months. Well, it’s because I think that it is better that people who are fond of animals do the job if they can force themselves to do it, rather than people who don’t like them and think of it as just an experiment. You have to force yourself to do these things to them. The experiment itself causes stress and strain to both animals and workers, but it is better that someone who is kind to animals does the job because they will make sure that the animals get all their dues, and they won’t lose their patience.

When I told the Supervisor I was leaving, he said “I know you have been unhappy as long as I have been here and ICI do con people by the money they pay, and I’m not very happy in the job anyway”. Shortly after, he also left. When I left, I went back to nursing at £12.00 per week less than I had been getting at ICI, but it had got so I was dreading going in to work every day. I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I used to stand and look at the dogs and what got me down more than anything was hearing them crying. Dogs do cry. One dog in particular (Mabel) used to cry so much because of her bad ears. Some people just think “Oh what a shame. A dog smoking a cigarette”. But to my mind it’s not just the cigarette. It’s everything else that goes with it, the general mistreatment, their everyday life. Dogs are so loving that you look upon them as your friend. But you have to stand there and watch all those dogs eyes looking at you almost saying “Please let me go”. I don’t think they should do it with any animals.

I am not an anti-vivisectionists. I know that we have to try out a lot of drugs and other things on animals and, even if you don’t like it, you can think to yourself “It’s done in a proper manner, with respect” but this smoking experiment is just commercial, I think. It’s just for somebody’s greed. It is long term, it is done for something about which people have a choice and it can be done without. There are many things that go on, but the thing about this is that it is unnecessary. I believe it is a money venture.

In giving this statement to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, I agree that it becomes their property and that they may use it, or part of it, to further their campaign against this kind of experiment on live animals.