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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 10:03 GMT
Animal testing: Unavoidable or unjustifiable?
The troubles of a British biotechnology company have led to a heated debate over the ethics of animal testing.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Huntingdon Life Sciences faces bankruptcy because animal rights campaigners have successfully lobbied banks and potential investors away from the company.
The company uses animals to test medical and other products, says it is the victim of "terrorism" by anti-vivisectionist groups.
Are campaigners justified in their protest or are companies just carrying out essential research for the benefit of all?
Edmund McGuigan, Britain
Two of my last three dogs needed life-saving operations, and all of them at one time or another needed medicines. These operations and medicines were of course perfected in animal experiments. I'm totally against the use of animals in the testing of cosmetics, but let us not forget that it isn't just us humans that benefit from the work done at places like Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Having read the letters above it would seem that there is a sensible middle ground between the 'ignorant hysterics' who are apparently prepared to kill people for their cause, i.e. to save the life of a mouse, and the scientific community who carry out these tests because UK and EU law demands it.
I would like to think more openness about animal testing which I believe is necessary may improve the situation but I fear the 'nutters ' who have joined this cause have no intention and perhaps not the ability to consider reasoned argument.
The bottom line for me is that animal testing is morally indefensible. What arrogant creatures we are to presume that the world and all that is in it can be used as fodder for our insatiable desire for longer lifespans.
The animal rights protesters have not won any sympathy with their insistence on using terrorism. The opinions of many have been altered against these activists due to the fact that these sort of people have to resort to violence in order to show their views.
Drugs designed to help humans should be tested on humans.
We want the benefits, so we must take the risks.
Using animals to suffer on our behalf, is simply not on.
Dr Susan Wyllie, USA/UK
I believe there should be NO animal testing done. There are lots of alternatives available! Get with the times, they need to stop living in the past, and realise that a lot of theses tests are a waste of money, also animals bodies are different to humans, therefore the results won't always be the same.
Leah Whitcher BSc, UK
Don't patronise us, Dr Wyllie. We've seen how "closely controlled and monitored" by government agencies animal testing at HLS was - we've seen it first-hand on undercover video film.
What do you think STARTED this controversy in the first place?
I wonder how many of these anti-animal testing protestors would turn down cancer-treatment medication--tested on cute little mice - should they get breast or prostate cancer? How many of them eat commercial meats -victims of brutal abattoirs - when they sit down for supper after a hard day of protesting? And for desert, do they have their cake and eat it too?
I despise the animal rights protesters. No one wants animals to be treated cruelly. But it is immoral to equate animal life to that of humans. No child should die so that a rat may live.
I wish I had nominated the HLS staff for the Radio 4 hero of the year award. These people bravely work to further medical research whilst the balaclava clad cowards bay and hurl insults.
Mankind has all but destroyed the planet, yet many feel justified in subjecting innocent creatures over which we have power to the most horrendous suffering for our, as some say 'benefit'. Should it not be the other way round?
Dr Susan Wyllie, USA/UK
There should be no animal testing.
As the philosopher Wittgenstein said, "People live too long anyway."
I don't want to be slumped in a sun-chair, oiled like a fish and semi-comatose
in a Spanish retirement 'urbanization' in my seventies having achieved
a longer life courtesy of several hundred eviscerated puppies.
The attention paid to stressing the importance of these "life saving" experiments really amuses me. I'm now a strong supporter of animal rights issues after leaving a job at a contract research organisation. Reading through the documentation made me feel physically sick. When you have seen the facts on what these living things go through in order to market yet another hand cream to relieve mild dermatitis then I'll listen to your opinion. Until then just carry on pandering to the shareholders by swallowing the propaganda. After all, it far easier and less mentally challenging for you than the alternative.
Charles Dods, USA/UK
Animal tests should be, and are, kept to a minimum. Some are presently unavoidable. Some human testing is presently unavoidable. For this to change there needs to be additional funding for research into improved computer modelling of the human body. The animal rights protesters would do better to channel their energy into raising funds for this important research rather than seeking to terrorise those people trying to develop better medicines for the rest of us.
The animal rights protesters should be very worried. It's clear that they have been infiltrated by groups hostile to the UK, and in favour of unrestricted cruelty in animal experiments.
The evidence is clear: instead of campaigning democratically they have chosen to try to shut down HLS. If they succeed the work will move abroad, where animal rights legislation is invariably less strict than it is here. The real agenda is not "Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty" but "Increase Animal Cruelty At The Expense Of British Jobs" - but you can see why the latter title is slightly less attractive to them.
It is not a question of whether or not animal testing should be allowed - it is a question of what testing should be allowed (i.e. for what purpose) and how that testing should be effectively supervised and controlled so that the animals involved are not treated in an unnecessarily harsh uncaring and cavalier manner.
Anyone who saw the TV documentary showing how HLS were arbitrarily abusing helpless beagles could not fail to be moved by their plight. And, if they treat beagles like that, are they treating monkeys any better?
SHAC probably does contain "animal extremists" and probably a few "terrorists" as well, but the majority of its members are law-abiding in their protests. I speak as both a law professional and SHAC supporter.
The arrogance of those who state that, "as the highest form of intelligence on the planet, we have the right to treat animals as we wish to gain advantages ourselves" is unbelievable!
Robert Hamilton, UK
There is no justification for animal testing under any circumstances. If proper investment was put into the alternatives available - human tissue for example - then despicable organisations like HLS would cease to exist.
I wholeheartedly disagree with vivisection with regard to testing for cosmetics and toiletries but not when it comes to medicines. This lab performs a vital service in the testing of medicines to ensure their safety. If the protesters consider this an injustice for animals would they put themselves forward as test materials for untested medicines? I don't think so.
I don't have a problem with testing drugs etc (i.e. medical testing) on animals. What does REALLY annoy me however is people destroying or trying to harm the companies and people who do this because of some misguided principles that animals deserve the same treatment as humans. God put animals on earth so that they could be used by humans for food, to pull ploughs and generally make our life easier and more comfortable. Medical testing is one of those functions.
As an ex-animal rights activist, and a one-time near victim of an indiscriminate terrorist bomb, I think I'm in a good position to comment on this. Yes, animal abuse is wrong but that doesn't justify holier-than-thou zealots sending indiscriminate bombs in the post. That is just as sick any criminal.
My fear is that this new wave of fundamentalist violence will be used by the media to discredit the peaceful and legal bulk of the animal welfare movement. As for HDLS being put out of business by (99% legal) protests, that's what is called "democracy".
Nicholas Tucker, UK
Let us be clear, animal research is done for shareholder profit. If the human race was serious about relieving suffering then it would address preventable diseases in poor people and diseases of affluence in rich ones. But we don't, and countless animals end their lives in agony to develop another cure for baldness, cold sores or zits.
Drug companies are required by UK and EU law to test new drugs on animals. It is not possible to determine from a test tube how a drug will act in a living system. At present there is no substitute for these tests, although many pharmaceutical companies are working on other possibilities. If Huntingdon Life Sciences is closed down these tests will simply be carried out elsewhere. There is no possibility that animal testing will stop, no matter how many people are terrorised in this country.
Humans test drugs etc. on animals because we can. We have the power over animals to subject them to the most horrific tests to save a human life. Cruelty to animals is revolting but would I say no to treatment because it had been tested on animals? No. To me my life and the life of my family is more important than the life of any animal. I do find it unacceptable to use non-health related products that have been tested on poor animals just to look pretty or have a nice smelling shampoo!
Matt Simon's question is irrelevant.
We don't want the cruelty to
apply in the first place.
Am I to believe that a human life is not worth more than an animal life?
This is not standing up for animals, it is an insult to humanity.
With all of the human rights abuses which go on around the world, such as third world child labour. Shouldn't these people be spending their time more wisely trying to improve the quality of human life instead of terrorising ordinary working people's lives. How would they feel if others used terrorist actions against them because they didn't agree with their views.
What planet does Suzy Fowler live on. Of course animals were put on the planet for the benefit of humans. I'm sure if she had her way we'd all be living in tents eating dandelions (or would that be to cruel to the plants?).
Animal testing should be viewed in the short term as a completely necessary evil. Those arguments have been spelled out above. Technology is not yet sufficient to use tools instead of animals but clearly this is feasible. I fail to understand why people dedicate their lives to attacking something that is controversial rather than investing effort in making it completely redundant through scientific funding and research.
The human race must get over the guilt it feels as the highest order of intelligence on the planet. Cruelty to animals must be limited as much as possible, but only if it does not interfere with medical research. I am totally against cosmetic tests and so forth, but if rat has to die to save a human life, then so be it!
Mahesh Prasad, USA
With all of the human rights abuses which go on around the world, such as Third World child labour, Shouldn't these people be spending their time more wisely trying to improve the quality of human life instead of terrorising ordinary working peoples lives. How would they feel if others used terrorist actions against them because they didn't agree with their views.
Jo Mitchell, UK
Unfortunately it is necessary to use animals for medical research. The claim of many animal rights groups that tissue cultures can be used is simply untrue. However, all experiments should be undertaken with the maximum of human treatment for the creatures concerned.
We do not have the moral right to cause gratuitous pain to animals but we have to remember that animals are not human beings, they do not have rights as they have no responsibilities or capacity for moral reason.
Any person who puts the welfare of an animal above that of a human being does not deserve to be called human. Tell any parent with a dying child that they can't be treated as the mouse deserves to live more than their child does.
Susy Fowler, UK
If there is the slightest chance that animal experimentation can help find a cure or a treatment for any disease, let's do it. And don't forget that veterinary science has benefited greatly from animal experimentation - a true animal lover would support these experiments.
I have no idea whether or not ALL animal testing that takes place is strictly necessary (especially testing of cosmetics). However, I am completely certain that any "animal liberation" organisation that intends to kill, maim or otherwise terrorise any human being has got some pretty warped sense of right and wrong. If it takes animal research to continue to improve our ability to fight human disease then so be it. Human life is worth immeasurably more than animal life in this context.
If HTD closes it is very likely that similar necessary research will be re-routed to companies abroad with far worse animal rights records.
How many members of SHAC eat meat, wear leather shoes, use cosmetics, take medicines or give medicines to their children when they are ill?
I don't agree with animal testing, but if it has to be done, I think it should be monitored by the RSPCA at the expense of companies like Huntingdon Life Sciences.
But from posters and the press coverage I have seen of Huntingdon Life Sciences, they should be closed down for animal cruelty.
If an animal-rights activist or a member of his or her family were ill with a potentially fatal disease, would he or she refuse treatment because it had been tested on animals?
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