Green Hill is a breeding centre based in the northern Italian town of Montichiari, near Brescia. It is part of Marshall Bioresources, and until a few months ago it used to sell beagle dogs to laboratories. Beagles are very resilient dogs, and this has become their curse, because they are regularly used for experiments around the world.


A dog's grave in Highgate Cemetery - London, UK, 2011

A dog's grave in Highgate Cemetery - London, UK, 2011

Green Hill’s activities have now ended, for two reasons:
-    the first is that Legislative Decree 26/2014, approved by the Italian Parliament last year, forbids the breeding of dogs, cats and primates for experiments in the country;
-    the second is that after a trial lasting over a year, last week several key staff from this breeding centre were sentenced respectively to one year and one year and six months in prison for the mistreatment and killing of thousands of dogs in their facilities.


It all started in 2012, when several demonstrations took place in Montichiari, and legal actions against Green Hill were started by various organisations. During a demonstration in April 2012, thirteen activists and citizens managed to jump over Green Hill’s fences, enter the sheds where the animals were kept and take away 61 dogs destined for experiments, all in front of cameras, journalists and police. This act of civil disobedience triggered effects nobody would have expected at the time. In fact, after only a few months, in July 2012, another raid was organised, this time by the Brescia police, in which all the 2,639 dogs that were present in the establishment were confiscated, taken away, and given up for temporary adoption to organisations and individual citizens.


Breeding centres of animals for laboratories – like the laboratories themselves – are always shielded from public scrutiny. Although they claim that their activities are indispensable to protect human health, everything happens behind closed doors: we are speaking of over 115 million animals used in experiments every year worldwide, but this number is an estimate because an official figure simply does not exist! So, we are supposed to believe the dogma that animal experiments are indispensable, simply because that’s what those who conduct them tell us.


The figure of 115 million does not even include the animals killed in breeding centres as “surplus” or because they have developed health problems. The police action in Montichiari and last week’s pronouncement from the Brescia court help us to grasp the huge scale of the killings in breeding centres, too.


Green Hill used to sell around 250 dogs a month, keeping an average population of 2,500 breeders, puppies and dogs ready for sale. Thanks to the police investigation and the trial that ended last week, we know more about what happened in this establishment, which – like any other company dealing with animal experiments – had claimed that very high welfare standards were in place.


Last week Renzo Graziosi, veterinarian of the establishment, and Ghislane Rondot, co-manager of “Green Hill 2001”, were sentenced to 1 year and 6 months in prison. Roberto Bravi, director of the breeding centre, was sentenced to 1 year. They were also banned from breeding activities for 2 years, and all 2,639 dogs were confiscated and placed in the care of animal welfare organisations, which over the last two years have found adoptive families for them. The sentences were based on the evidence that in the last 4 years over 6,000 dogs had been killed at Green Hill, either because they were unsold or because it was not financially advantageous to cure them.

According to prosecutor Ambrogio Cassiani, if dogs were sick, they were not treated but eliminated. The breeders were also sentenced to pay tens of thousands of euros to the animal welfare organisations that reported them. Under Italian law, charities can be recognised as parties in the trial (interestingly, in the UK organisations that oppose animal experiments cannot be recognised as charities, because animal experiments are deemed essential for human health – dogma transposed into law!). Lawyers for Green Hill have announced that they will appeal against the tribunal’s pronouncement.


In 1993, Italy was the first country in the world to legalise conscientious objection to animal experiments, both for students and professionals, through the 413/93 law. A 2014 law prohibits the breeding of dogs, cats and primates for experiments.


You can read an article (in Italian) about the tribunal’s decision on the La Repubblica website.




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