Thursday, 5 August 2010

Common Sense & Animal Testing

Home Office statistics released last week showed that, for the first time, there are more genetically-modified animals being used for medical and scientific research than normal animals, with a total of 3.6 million animal experiments being carried out in 2009.

This is excellent news that is made even better by the findings of a recent Ipsos MORI poll.

It reported that the proportion of people who agree that animal testing is right when there is no valid alternative has doubled to more than 50% of the sample over the last decade.

These animals are being used to study the genetic and biological basis of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's, with the aim of developing new and more effective treatments.

However, some people won't see these new statistics as good news. But frankly, I think those people are misinformed at best, idiots for the most part, and violent extremists at worst.

There is an organisation called SPEAK, whose members unfortunately fall into these categories. They have protested unsuccessfully against the building of a new biomedical sciences laboratory in Oxford, beside my old 'stomping ground' of the Dept. of Experimental Psychology.

SPEAK's members would protest every Thursday. It was normally a pathetic collection middle-aged, middle-class women who seemed like they needed a cause. Their arguments were so misinformed it was laughable.

I was once shouted by one of these ladies. She pointed at me, and shouted these words exactly.. "YOU inject horse-radish into the brains of monkeys!"


This accusation was false on two fronts. Firstly, undergraduates are not allowed to test on primates. 

Secondly, horse-radish?

This was a reference to the use of the enzyme horse-radish peroxidase, which is used as a tracer signal for specific molecules. However, if SPEAK's members cannot fathom the difference between a chemical tracer enzyme, and a thick spicy sauce, it is perhaps unwise to expect them to grasp the more advanced arguments for animal testing, let alone put across the reasoned arguments against animal testing.

One of the founders of this organisation can legally be classified as a violent extremist. Mel Broughton has recently been sentenced to be detained for 10 years at Her Majesty's pleasure for planting petrol bombs at Templeton College of the Oxford University.

The less said about this man, the better, probably. 

But it seems that common sense might, for once, be prevailing and be correct.

I know that animal testing is not an ideal solution, and that because the theory of evolution holds that the difference between humans and animals is one of degree, we cannot morally justify animal testing. However, it is the best solution available to us at the moment, so I am very happy that public opinion seems to be changing.

And I have never injected any sauce, spicy or otherwise, into the brain of any animal.


Photo Courtesy Of: Flickr @fftang

The Economist covers this story here. The comments are worth a read - there is some rational input from an organisation called FRAME - Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments.

83% of animal experiments in the UK in 2009 involved rodents - they're considered by most to be pests, and they are in no danger of extinction.

Rhesus macaque monkeys are the main primate used in animal testing - they are considered a pest in the countries of the world they live, and are in no danger of extinction.

1 comment:

  1. Good post. Injecting horse-radish indeed...

    One of the things I think few people know about UK animal testing is that Great Apes (chimps, gorillas etc.) are no longer used in this country as a matter of government policy; I think there are some exemptions in theory but AFAIK no great apes are being researched here at the moment.