The story this week about supporters of a new pro-vivisection campaign group provoked a forceful reaction from those on both sides of the debate. Here, as part of the Magazine's readers' column, Joanne Oliver, who opposes animal testing, explains how she always has to think twice when visiting her local supermarket.
Cute kittens: But is testing necessary for human health?
I am against testing products on animals. I am also a vegetarian. But before you get a stereotypical image of a 40-something, single cat-owning, brogue and tweed-wearing scatterbrained woman "moaning on" about global warming, I can assure you that I am nothing like that.
I am in my late-30s and work as a legal assistant in the Cayman Islands, although Britain is my home. I do my demonstrating relatively quietly, through my lifestyle choice. Occasionally, when I feel stirred about an animal welfare issue I'll fire off letters to politicians and companies involved.
But don't get me wrong - some of my views would conflict wildly with those of others who share my animal-rights stance. I am pro-abortion, and, despite trying, I can't go the extra mile to becoming a vegan.
In my late teens I became aware of the fact products we use in everyday life had been tested on animals. I began donating to charities and started finding out about the issues through groups such as the British Union of Anti-Vivisectionists and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
But I also read information from companies and medical research organisations and publications which argue a case FOR animal testing.
Thus, I receive balanced information and am able to make choices about the products I buy and the way I live.
Cleaning stuff, make-up and personal hygiene products that haven't been tested on animals are readily available from ordinary supermarkets. Sainsbury's even go one further and funds research into alternatives to animal testing.
The Co-Op supermarket has the most comprehensive labelling you will ever see, detailing ingredients and when they were last tested on animals.
Of course, lots of ingredients have been historically tested on animals. I can't rule these out but instead I rely on BUAV's Little Blue Book of Cruelty Free - a guide to shops and products selling animal-friendly goods - which sets a cut-off point, whereby after so many years a product can label itself "not tested on animals".
I know that the majority of products I buy have, at one time, been animal tested - albeit years ago. All I can do is the best that I can with the products available and make informed choices.
Another issue is medicine. If I have a headache, I go without pain-killers. I don't usually suffer from aches and pains but seven years ago I was diagnosed with a prolactinoma (frontal-lobe pituitary gland tumour) and given medicine to take to shrink the tumour.
It had been tested on animals, so I went looking for an alternative. It's hard to find authoritative information about these things but through exhaustive use of the internet I found one which, it seems, was tested on humans.
Here in the Cayman Islands it's harder to find products not tested on animals than in the UK. But they are here. They just take a little bit of searching out. Getting good vegetarian food is the current problem I face!
At the end of the day, my conscience will dictate the choices I make. Some of the products I use in my car have ingredients that, if you look back far enough, will have been tested on animals. However, what I cannot live with is the knowledge that scientists in our supposedly more informed age, continue to test products on living creatures, causing them harm and suffering, whether it be for a cosmetic, a fertiliser or in the cause of medical advancement.
I've read several articles in medical journals written by high-profile scientists which support the use of other testing methods. Some of these called for a halt to animal testing and for companies to use original research and up-date it by testing on willing humans; or to use computer-based technology.
So the simple choice of "I will not use products which have been tested on animals" is a far more complex than it might seem. I'll continue to think before I buy, and also strive to go that one step further, and become a vegan.
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