All entries for Thursday 23 March 2006

March 23, 2006

Animal testing – a viewpoint

Follow-up to Clinical trials and the ethics and practicalities of animal testing from Musings of a blonde

An editorial in New Scientist from a few weeks ago:

The climate of fear in the UK created by animal rights activists has suddenly changed, as those that support necessary animal testing took to the streets
In the past decade, a particularly nasty form of animal rights extremism has emerged in the UK. Researchers have been attacked. Employees and shareholders of companies that carry out animal experiments, and of firms that do business with them, have been threatened with violence – not only to themselves but also their homes and families.

These tactics nearly closed down an animal testing company and have convinced the University of Cambridge to abandon plans for a new primate centre. But their biggest impact has been to create a climate of fear that has left debate over animal experiments in the UK seriously one-sided.

That changed last week when nearly 1000 students, scientists and members of the public marched through Oxford in support of animal experimentation. Small it may have been, but it was symbolic. At last, the other side of the debate received a public airing.

Of course most people, including biomedical researchers, would rather animal experiments were not needed, but in some areas of science they are simply unavoidable. Much of our understanding of physiology and pathology stems from animal work, and if we want to understand the brain and its diseases, animal experiments will be indispensible.

There is no doubt that alternatives to animal experiments need to be adopted where possible, and that unnecessary test and mindless cruelty must be stopped. The quickest way to bring about such changes is through open debate, which has become impossible in the UK. Last week’s marchers began to dispel the climate of fear. More power to them.

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