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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  1. Hear hear!

    23 Mar 2006, 13:16

  2. I'm very glad to hear it. I second Edward. :)

    23 Mar 2006, 14:19

  3. I have a mate at Oxford who lives just around the corner from where a lot of the Animal Rights loonies gather. For many of the Oxford students and academics involved, the marches are considered not only as 'pro-Animal Testing' but also a protest at the tactics and threats of the anti-test protestors from groups such as ALF and SPEAK. These groups have few morals – their tactics are bordering on terrorism. The leader of ALF (Animal Liberation Front) has declared that anybody connected with Oxford University – students, staff (academic and non-academic), graduates, suppliers, beneficiaries – you name it, anyone with any connection, is a legitimate target for violence. The testing lab being built is constantly under heavy guard, with the government having to underwrite the security costs because they're so high, and builders have to be escorted in and out of the site by guards to avoid being attacked.

    I'm not particularly for or against animal testing, I'll accept whatever's best, and if testing on animals is the way to save human lives then I'm all for it. What really gets me is the tactics these groups are using, their constant refusal to enter any sort of discussion or debate, and most of all their attitude that it is acceptable to hurl abuse at students indiscriminately – many of those on the receiving end have absolutely nothing to do with what's going on with the lab. Cambridge did exactly the wrong thing by sending out a message that these sort of tactics can win through. Well done to Oxford for persisting with the building, and well done to those involved in the counter-protests for refusing to put up with, and be intimidated by, these nutters.

    23 Mar 2006, 14:31

  4. I agree with Benjamin, I for one couldn't believe that an institution such as Cambridge decided not to go ahead with a testing centre. Can you imagine how many years of planning and permissions and board meetings etc etc would have gone into deciding whether this new facility was needed, how it would function, what it would look like, how many staff – it probably took well over a year, and with something this contraversial (sp?) that estimate is probably modest. But all of a sudden it's not worth it, because a bunch of people who could not live the way they live without animal testing and the majority of whom would not be alive today without such testing (think of over the counter medications and vaccinations alone) can't understand the subtle differences between necessary, unavoidable animal testing and cruelty to animals. They simply aren't the same things.

    I always felt that cruelty to animals was appalling but it doesn't mean I think necessary animal testing for the advancement of our medical understanding should be stopped. How much longer and how much more difficult would it be to get new drugs onto the market? I'm no expert in the field and I don't pretend to know all the facts when it comes to pharmaceutical (sp?) companies but I'm pretty sure it takes an awful long time for a new drug to be approved. How would we know that a miracle drug that, in a laboratory setting kills off cancerous cells doesn't also cause blindness or brain damage if used in slightly different doses or the first time you take a single paracetamol with it? We would be clueless before human testing and the terrible consequences of the clinical trial last week would be so commonplace they might not even make the national news.

    Here here to the sensible people of Oxford, if I'd known I would have been there.

    23 Mar 2006, 15:32

  5. if I'd known I would have been there.

    Ditto. I wish they'd given more notice – I only heard about it the day before.

    23 Mar 2006, 17:41

  6. The "Pro-Test" movement website: link

    Keep checking for any more marches.

    25 Mar 2006, 01:01

  7. copious reader

    Animal testing is a great idea because it is better to find out the effects a certain drug on an expendable resource. This helps protect humans from coming in contact with harmful or lethal drugs. This process also helps people with terminal diseases live longer or even be cured. Animals are not the first thing to think about when millions of people die each year from terminal diseases, when instead research is being done to save peoples lives.

    It’s not logical to test potentially fatal drugs on human beings when instead scientists can collect the same data from non–consequential animals. These animals are not brutally murdered, they are given a controlled dose of the experimental material in a controlled environment and the results are taken in to affect then if errors they are fixed and retried.

    The drugs tested on animals yesterday can be used on the market today to treat or even cure what used to be a terminal illness. The work theses scientists do should be commended, not detested. Without the use of animals many humans would needlessly lose their lives. If humans have the resources and the means of doing so, animals should always be used for testing on viable medical advances.

    Using these drugs on animals also benefits the environment, through trial and error; scientists find ways to improve drugs so that they are not harmful to the environment. Chemical testing on animals only accounts for ten to twenty percent of all animal testing, which in the U.S. is roughly two to four million. These animals are not used without purpose, they help further the science in human health, and are used to find crucial cures and treatment to what may other wise be a devastating disease.

    Animal testing is a crucial part to the further health of the human race. The idea of quitting this practice to please the protester is not only unreasonable, it doesn’t make since for millions of people to die over a disease that may have been cured do the death of a small figure of the rat population. People need to cope with this process because on day it will have a central effect on weather or not they live or die.

    12 Jun 2006, 15:36


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