Saturday, 27 December 2008

More on animal testing

On the SHAC convictions, I've had an email from an animal rights group expressing disappointment with my (partial) support for vivisection, as discussed in the previous post.

I've suggested they post their email on my blog, as I have no problem with them making their criticism of me public. What I do object to, however, is the suggestion that my position must be based on ignorance of the scientific arguments.

The email writer says "Being vegan, I would have thought that you would know more about the scientific arguments that underpin the lack of utility of animals for human disease. I would urge you to read up on these arguments before deciding to defend animal research." Well, how do they know I haven't?

The fact is, I have. Over many years.

As I've mentioned several times on this blog, I think there's always a danger that people (and politicians in particular) will sniff out the science that confirms their prejudices, and focus on that at the expense of other scientific research which doesn't back up their point of view. (And yes, smokers, that does include you, and no, I'm not going to let this turn into another debate on smoking).

In this instance, my prejudices would lead me to support a total ban on all animal experiments. When I read the research I'm wanting to be convinced that such experiments are a complete waste of time, that the differences between humans and other species render them completely irrelevant and of no scientific validity. But - sorry - I'm just not convinced by what I've read.

And that means I don't feel I can turn round and say to, for example, parents of kids with chronic genetic illnesses that I don't think scientists should be allowed to continue their research. Limit the research as much as possible, cut out all the unnecessary testing and the duplication, ban the use of primates, develop alternatives to animal testing - yes, yes, yes. But I can't go the whole way yet. And it's not because I haven't done my homework.


Remember Remember said...

It's quite tempting to test things on Vegans...

Kerry said...

Funny, I feel the same way about libertarians...

Kerry said...

And here's the response to this particular post which I was emailed by Animals Count.

"My comment regarding scientific arguments was based on the fact that you had made no reference to peer-reviewed scientific papers that describe the efficacy of animal research. As I said before, most scientists who claim animal use is necessary, base their opinion on anecdotes and selective examples. I agree, many anti-vivisection activists have done the same to support their argument. What is therefore needed are systematic reviews that look at a range of issues and a large, randomly selected sample of published papers. I have asked Andrew Knight, Animals Count President, veterinarian, and author of numerous peer-reviewed scientific papers to say a few more words about this.

You also seem to make a distinction between on one hand ‘campaigners’, and on the other hand ‘researchers’. Many campaigners these days, including many in leading anti-vivisection organisations, have had scientific training, and some even hold PhDs. They are just as capable, if not more so compared to ‘animal researchers,’ to critically assess the utility of animal experiments.

As a politician it is necessary to hear two sides of the story and to balance information, however, at the end of the day, ethics play an important part of everyone’s life, including that of politicians. If scientists or politicians think that animal use in research, testing and education is justified because it is effective only occasionally, or at best, some of the time, I would find that a very poor ethical decision, especially in a time where resources for scientific research are scarce. We have to move away from old practices and embrace new scientific methods that are truly humane, effective and predictive (best practice); many of these non-animal methods already exist and are being used.

The animal protection movement is united in its desire for an independent review, and we are very disappointed that Labour hasn't followed through on this without an explanation. If the government had kept its 1997 manifesto promise, then all the issues around HLS and SHAC might not even have happened. Those animal protectionists who voted Labour (instead of Green for example) deserve a full explanation. If Lord Sainsbury and the Research Defense Society are confident that animal experiments work, they should welcome a review of the subject, and it would lay a lot of confusion and conflict to rest once and for all.

I do hope you will champion the 3Rs more, and, replacement methods in particular.

With kind regards,

Jasmijn de Boo, BSc (Hons), MSc, DipEd
Chair, Animals Count

Remember Remember said...

I'm not a "Libertarian". My principles are based solely on ethics and common sense, not divided loyalties to any party. Any similarity of mine to any party's opinions would be purely coincidental.

As for this subject: You may soon have to eat what's left on the shelves, all the more for us if the lot of you skip meat.
(Do any of you even grow any vegetables or do you just eat them?)