Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Animal Experimentation

I was listening to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5 this morning and she was presenting the show from an animal research laboratory. We heard descriptions of procedures that were being carried out and we heard the views of those who supported animal experimentation and those who didn't. Those who supported the experiments said they were useful but didn't mention any experiments that had been a waste of time. Maybe they think that negative tests are useful too. Those against said that testing wasn't useful and we shouldn't be using animals anyway.

Well either animal experiments are useful or they are not. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground here so it is surprising to hear this level of argument. Dogs were used to discover insulin so if you have diabetes, and even if you don''t then you may find yourself on the side of animal experimentation. The counter argument may be that dogs were not required but I would find this a difficult case to argue.

There was great discussion as to whether mice had to die in order to experiment on their embryos. Could an operation be carried out that allowed them to live after donating embryos to research? I had an image of teams of surgeons and anaesthetists working on thousands of mice but Victoria felt this was a valid question. Mice have short lives anyway, and in the outside world the end would normally come painfully, from a predator or disease or a mousetrap or poison. Think of the absurdity of surgically saving these mice at great expense, only to euthanize them shortly thereafter.

There appears to be stringent criteria to animal experimentation. The main argument against the tests is that we should not be treating animals in this way but I would find a stronger argument against the way we treat farm animals. Protestors have chosen to concentrate their efforts on laboratories rather than farms because here they hope to find more public support, not because animals face worse treatment.

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