« Previous | Main | Next »

Animal experimentation

Eddie Mair | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 24 July 2007

was part of the programme last night - tonight the same reporter, Christopher Landau has more for you. He writes:

"Last night on PM, I reported on the BUAV's legal challenge against the Home Office about its regulation of animal testing. Tonight, I'll be interviewing Professor Michael Ball, who advised the government on its policy in 1986 when the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act became law. The BUAV is challenging the Home Office over its implementation of the Act. Professor Ball is critical of the huge increase in the numbers of animals being tested, and welcomes the challenge at the High Court. He also happens to be father of Ed Balls, the new Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families"

Comments

  1. At 12:51 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Stewart M wrote:

    If he is the father of Ed Balls why is he not called Michael Balls?

  2. At 01:00 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    This sounds like a very interesting piece, Eddie. I know this is a very complicated issue, but speaking personally, I have serious problems with testing on animals.

    And, putting the bits of Balls together, how would we feel if drugs were tested on our children, a practice for which (rightly) the Nazis were condemned?


  3. At 01:46 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Christopher Landau wrote:

    You're quite right, Stewart M - I missed off the 's'. Prof BallS is Ed's father. I promise.

  4. At 01:59 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Nailing colours to the mast, I am not a vegetarian but try to be at least slightly ethical about what meat I eat; I try to avoid eating animals I know to have been treated badly, so won't ever eat eg white veal, poultry that is not locally produced free-range, or pork products from Denmark or Holland.

    That said, I find experimentation on live animals to be very unpleasant and upsetting. I don't mind quite so much if the products being tested are medicinal -- and those in any case have eventually to be tested on human volunteers, so we aren't only exploiting animals -- but feel strongly that all the results both positive and negative of all such research should always be shared throughout the entire scientific/medical community immediately, so that there is never any duplication of experiments. That might make the experimenting less profitable for the drugs companies but it seems to me to be the only proper course, if such testing is the only way to establish facts (which I suppose may sometimes be the case, for all that animal metabolisms are not all that similar to the human).

    Testing for anything not directly involving the preservation of human life or the eradication of conditions in humans that make life not worth living, such as testing to make sure that cosmetics are 'safe', should be discontinued immediately as far as I am concerned. We have *enough sorts of shampoo*: we don't need any more.

    To torture animals in order to gratify the vanity of a few silly women and boost the profits of make-up manufacturers seems to me obscene. It's like the fur trade: fur is worn by beautiful animals and ugly human beings was a very telling slogan.

    I worry too about the effect that animal experimentation may have on the people doing it. It's hard to believe that making a living deliberately causing suffering doesn't have at least some dehumanising side-effects on the mental state of the researchers. How big a step is it from convincing oneself that deliberately giving an animal a painful and fatal disease or condition in order to see whether a 'cure' works is acceptable and even right, to coming to believe that doing the same to (for instance) human criminals would be justified 'for the greater good'? It's not generally good form on usenet to mention the Nazis, but in this case it does seem relevant to do so: their nauseating experiments on pregnant women of 'lesser races', or on the effects of immersion in freezing water on the 'human-not-quite-human', do rather come to mind. Nobody could do that sort of thing from a standing start, but it is a position that *was* reached by a lot of people, in gradual stages over a period as short as ten years. They can't all have started out as amoral monsters. And I think we have previously mentioned on this site the experiments that showed that ordinary people will inflict what they believe to be agony on other people if told to do so 'in the interests of research' by an authority-figure in a white coat with "Doctor" on his name-tag.

  5. At 02:51 PM on 24 Jul 2007, witchiwoman wrote:

    Second attempt as the first was too waffly -

    I can not believe that this is the best to test new medicines and treatments. With all the technology we have at our disposal, including computer modelling, surely there is a better way?

    And what happens to the animals at the end of their useful life? And are they solely bred for this purpose? The morality of every aspect of this process is questionable and stomach churning.

  6. At 03:29 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Mr Fish (4), A lot of interesting points in your post. However, one thing jarred with me somewhat:

    To torture animals in order to gratify the vanity of a few silly women and boost the profits of make-up manufacturers seems to me obscene.

    On the boosting profits part, yep: wholeheartedly agree. In respect of the first part of the sentence there are three points I'd like to make:

    Men use shampoo too.

    Men are the majority of major shareholders in the businesses that do the testing.

    Men are the major shareholders in just about everything in the captalist world, and it is that which applies the pressure to the "silly" women to be so vain.

    If you'd not been sex-specific I guess it wouldn't have struck me so much.

    No malice intended.

    A, x.

  7. At 03:37 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Mark Thwaite wrote:

    Animal experiments tell us about animals. The pharmaceutical industry is -- clue in the name -- an industry that aims to make profits. These two things unite making global healthcare not nearly as good as it should or could be.

    Animal experiments are crude and ineffective. You want to prove that parsley is poisonous? Feed it to a parrot. It'll kill it.

  8. At 03:53 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Stewart M wrote:

    Testing drugs on animals is certainly an emotive topic.

    As a student mid 80's we were expected to do experiments on bits of animal to see what the effects of various drugs were for the pharmacology bit of my degree. I'm an optometrist. This has now stopped as it was really an unnesessary exercise.

    However the use of animal models is a long established practice. Until there is a better syntheic model to test drugs on then what else do we do? I don't have the answers. Its probably too drastic to stop the R&D on new drugs? But if the current system is being abused then perhaps we should stop trying to develop better drugs that target the disease in a more defined way.

  9. At 04:21 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Appers @ 6, m'yes, point taken, though I think probably women use cosmetics a lot more than men do, and I was thinking of cosmetics being tested on animals rather than the shampoo I had mentioned in the previous paragraph. Careless, and I apologise. On the basis of your points, the women in question are being exploited by the men who make the profit from their vanity as well as being pressurised into the vanity in the first place. That makes it worse not better, it seems to me.

    I've always rather felt that in fact, if they were being truthful about the matter, many men might actually prefer women *not* to be covered in lotions and potions and pungent unguents, just as surveys occasionally reveal that many women actually and actively dislike the smell of many or even most aftershaves. (And the recent Piriton advertisements indicated that a surprisingly large number of people suffer an allergic reaction when they are exposed to this form of chemical warfare, something that no amount of animal testing will reveal -- there's another reason to think animal testing isn't the best way to go about things, perhaps?) So maybe we all ought to be falling back on 1960s' feminists' stances on make-up in general as being exploitation of women full stop, regardless of the cruelty...

    Both sexes are being exploited, anyhow, on that model. I was wrong to suggest that it might be a failing primarily among females.

    But I stand by the "silly", because I *do* think it's silly. People who can't answer the door to the postman or milkman before they have "put on their face" in the morning, and so end up having to go miles to fetch a parcel or running up a huge milk-bill that they then have trouble paying, are being very silly indeed. That also seems to me to indicate a level of self-hatred, expressed as a complete rejection of their own faces, that is positively frightening, and to be in general a very sorry state of affairs. I don't know where vanity may start to merge into fear of rejection and fear of rejection into not wanting to look as one actually does, though. Scary.

    I also still boggle occasionally over the information once let slip that Diana Princess of Wales managed to spend about a thousand pounds a week on ephemeral personal adornment (ie excluding clothes and jewellery). How one earth does one spend that much on make-up, hair and nail treatment and tights?

  10. At 04:37 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Incidentally, do you think Eddie chose today's strapline with this particular conversation in mind?

    Tsk tsk!

  11. At 05:45 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Professor Ball, while not a 'natural' interviewee, was cogent and well argued. No wonder his sons have done so well! And good for him for putting his moral position well ahead of any potential embarrassment for his sons.

    Of course, it may well be that they share his views. But they'll not be airing them publicly, at a guess.

  12. At 05:54 PM on 24 Jul 2007, jonathan morse wrote:

    animal experimentation cannot be justified unless you are ill and need treatment which currently isn't availiable, or if you're empathic for such people. When Prof Balls gets Ahzeimer's he'll support vivisection.

  13. At 06:57 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    Well, Jonathan, you may be right - but again, you may be wrong.

  14. At 07:18 PM on 24 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    jonathan morse @ 12, surely if Prof. Balls gets Altzheimer's he won't remember to support vivesection, if he remembers what it is?

    As a matter of interest, how much vivesection is involved in research into cures for Altzheimer's, does anyone happen to know? I thought the fuss in that field was about stem-cell research and the possible use of aborted or non-viable embryos? I seem to remember a notable about-turn from Reagan's widow on the subject of stem-cells being used, or some such. Stem-cells from dead embryos are a slightly different subject from vivesection, I feel.

  15. At 12:00 AM on 25 Jul 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Appy & Chris,

    I don't think there is any evidence upon which to base any assumption about the gender balance of investors. In fact I reckon that, due to the extra longevity of females, especially the wealthy, women may well hold substantially more wealth than men.

    Most folk who invest in mutual funds have turned their conscience down as far as it goes.

    Sorry to be so cynical, but when it comes to money, morals far too often go out the window. Same for power.

    xx
    ed

    P.S. back reference to Thorstein Veblen and the Theory of the Leisure Class.

  16. At 02:16 AM on 25 Jul 2007, Aperitif wrote:

    Fishers (9), Yes, silly, but so much more than silly too. The low self-esteem (battered by the media and the capitalist world that supports it) is, to me, unbearably sad apart from anything else.

    Yes, I believe that this is true: many men might actually prefer women *not* to be covered in lotions and potions and pungent unguents, just as surveys occasionally reveal that many women actually and actively dislike the smell of many or even most aftershaves but the cosmetics industry isn't about that, but about conforming to the norm (having first made its customer base feel as abnormal as possible).

    Ed (15) In fact I reckon that, due to the extra longevity of females, especially the wealthy, women may well hold substantially more wealth than men. Sorry, but I just can't bring myself to dignify that with a response! Are you winding me up???

  17. At 07:38 AM on 25 Jul 2007, Paul wrote:

    I fail to see how animal testing contributes 'good' science even on developing new methods of diagnosis given that human phsiology is not compatable with any other animal.

    If people are prepared to eat animals that have been raised in a cruel and painful way is it not hypocritical to condemn animal experimentation.

  18. At 08:00 AM on 25 Jul 2007, Eric Ceilio wrote:

    After criticising Christopher Landau's previous piece on animal experimentation I suppose I should at least give one cheer for Monday and Tuesday's pieces.

    A few comments though. On Monday, the coverage of the BUAV's court case consisted of some good straight reporting of the issues. From my recollection, however, the interviews consisted of one with a BUAV person (anti viv.), one with the RDS (pro viv.), one with Cambridge Uni (pro viv.) and one with the Home Office (pro viv.). During the previous story about the new "openness" of an animal experimenter at a London University there was felt to be no reason to "balance" the story with any other view point.

    Yesterday's interview with Prof Balls was interesting, but again was an interview with a pro vivisection spokesperson, albeit with the view that there are too many procedures carried out on too many animals.

    I suppose what I am trying to say is that there seems to be a systematic bias in the media generally (PM isn't unique, except in this type of forum to comment!) that prevents anti vivisection proponents from making their case strongly and at length.

    Reporters also seem to give pro vivisection interviewees a very easy time. Why not ask them what research has been done to determine the efficacy of the experiments they claim to be necessary? Why not ask if they support the testing of cosmetics or household products on animals?

  19. At 11:36 AM on 25 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    Some interesting comments above. We do not test cosmetics and toiletries on animals in the UK, so this is a red herring. And animal resercah is essential to make progress in providing treatments for patients suffering from serious illness.

    In the interests of balance Michael Balls could have been more strongly challenged.

    1. Michael Balls’ full background and agenda were not revealed. He was involved in the negotiations in the run-up to the 1986 Act, but he was also for many years director of FRAME (Fund for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments) and is now its Chairman. Until very recently he was Director of the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods.

    2. He was bound to push his three Rs (replacement, refinement, reduction) agenda. But given his background, any failure to make better progress in that area could be regarded as his own failure. More importantly, under the 1986 Act scientists are required to fully consider the three Rs before they can get a licence. We believe that the three Rs principles are firmly embedded in the scientific community. Interestingly, the National Centre for the Three Rs is surveying scientists to find out if this really is the case. An interview with a representative of NC3Rs would have provided better balance than a statement from the Home Office about a different issue.

    3. The 1986 Act does not provide any mechanism for overall reduction targets – anyone involved at the time, including Michael Balls, would have known that. The number of animal experiments depends on the need to make progress in science and medicine balanced against the technology available to replace/reduce animal use (which is only about 10% of medical resaerch anyway). So with genetic modification of mice becoming such a powerful way to understand gene function and model human disease, the total numbers have been going up slowly and steadily since 2000. Before that they were going down or levelling out. They are still lower than they were in the late 80s after the 1986 Act was introduced.

    4. Right at the end Michael Balls referred to “the people who do unnecessary experiments on animals”. It is illegal to do unnecessary experiments on animals and if he knows of anyone who is doing this he should report them rather than making this sweeping allegation. He certainly should have been challenged rather than leaving this allegation hanging in the air.

  20. At 11:57 AM on 25 Jul 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    Appy (16),

    Not a windup, simply a speculative thought. A little research (giggle) reveals I may not be too far off. I have met many elder ladies who delight in Stock market investment and many more have assets 'under management'....

    In the US, in 2004, women represented over 40% of all individuals with over $500,000 in assets. In the UK it is predicted that women will own 60% of the nation’s wealth by 2025. Part of this change can be explained by the growing rates of women’s employment, of education and of participation in the higher paid professions. But another key factor is women’s greater longevity - living longer than men means they are likely to do better in terms of inheritance.
    http://www.open2.net/money/briefs_20051125_women.html

    And
    About 46% of the UK's 376,000 millionaires are women and this is predicted to rise to 60% by 2025. Most are aged between 18 and 44. The rise is partly due to a 'new generation' of so-called kitchen table tycoons
    www.wealthofwomen.com/WomenMoneySomeFacts.htm

    and
    Insurance giant Liverpool Victoria says that within 20 years women will control 60% of UK wealth. Slowly but surely, banks and investment companies are launching services aimed at encouraging women to shine in business.
    www.thisismoney.co.uk/small-business/article.html?in_article_id=414824&in_page_id=10

    They are possibly more likely than men to invest in cosmetics, following the rule 'invest in what you know'.

    All I said was that there is no evidence to support the assumption that men are the major beneficiaries of the trades exploiting 'silly' women. I do think you might enjoy the Veblen link provided at 15.

    xx
    ed

  21. At 12:06 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Paul wrote:

    I would have thought that if after experimentation an animal has to be disposed of because of contamination then to repeat the 'procedure' in any form on another animal is unecessary.

  22. At 12:07 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Paul wrote:

    I would have thought that if after experimentation an animal has to be disposed of because of contamination then to repeat that particular 'procedure' in any form on another animal is unecessary and possibly illegal.

  23. At 12:33 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Eric Ceilio wrote:

    bdavies (19):

    My comment "Why not ask if they support the testing of cosmetics or household products on animals?" was far from a red herring.

    Household products such as cleaners are still legally tested on animals in the UK. Cosmetics tested abroad or with ingredients tested on animals with a non-cosmetic "justification" are sold in the UK. I avoid them. It would be interesting to know if those who justify only "necessary" animal testing avoid them too. One well known Oxford Uni vivisector has openly defended such testing. I think this speaks volumes about his true attitudes.

    As for your statement "And animal resercah (sic) is essential to make progress in providing treatments for patients suffering from serious illness." Simply asserting something over and over again does not make it true, or scientifically justifiable. Where is the evidence, or even the evidence that anyone is interested in asking and answering the question?

  24. At 12:46 PM on 25 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    "Household products such as cleaners are still legally tested on animals in the UK." says Eric Ceilio. Number of animal tests for household product safety in the UK in 2006 = 0

    The evidence that animal resercah is essential for medical progress lies in practically all the major medical advances we all benefit from - vaccines from polio to cervical cancer, insulin for diabetes, asthma medication, Herceptin for breast cancer, etc etc. Several major independent enquiries have come to this conclusion, including the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, and the House of Lords Committee on Animal Experimentation. So questions have been asked and answered.

    Added to this, all the major scientific and medical organisations around the world believe that animal research is crucial to make progress in medicine. Not evidence, I know, but can they all be wrong?

  25. At 12:58 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Big Sister wrote:

    In fact, I think the issue was rather well discussed in last night's Newsnight between Michelle Thew from BUAV and Professor Tipu Aziz. The question of how experiments are classified was examined, duplication of experiments, and that the development/use of successful alternatives to animal experimentation were all touched on.

    This is an extremely emotive issue, I know, for many people and for different reasons. While I can understand alternative views, I cannot myself reconcile to the view of human life being innately superior to that of another being and that, therefore, animals should be sacrificed on the altar of our need to find cures for human ailments.

    I don't think anything will ever alter my view, regardless of self interest or of that of those I love.

    I cannot imagine that there would be many, if any, humans prepared to be experimented upon to find solutions to the many diseases which inflict non-human species either. But, in any event, they would be doing this of their own volition, which is an important distinction.

  26. At 01:24 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Eric Ceilio wrote:

    bdavies (24):

    So, according to you, at least for this year, the UK has exported its testing of household products as well as cosmetics. What sort of progress is this?

    Question to bdavies: Do you avoid cosmetics and household products that have ingredients tested on animals after a fixed cut off date? If so you are supporting the testing of these products on animals. I do not.

    In reply to: "Not evidence, I know, but can they all be wrong?". I am a scientist and rely on evidence. Can they all be wrong? Well yes they can. As an example, look at the refusal of major medical organisations to believe in helicobacter pylori for many years.

  27. At 01:48 PM on 25 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    Eric Ceilio (26):

    So all the major medical and scientific organisations around the world have been wrong
    for over 100 years on animal experimentation? This is not just some hypothetical debating point for them, many of them actually fund animal research - they would be unlikely to do so if there was evidence it didn't work.

    I agree that evidence is key. If evidence emerges that the majority view is wrong, it can take a while to persuade people of this. But not 100 years.

    I assume that Eric thinks he has evidence that animal research doesn't work. I have seen a lot of this so-called evidence and it turns out it's just repetition of the pseudoscientific antivivisection mantra. I think earlier on Eric said that simply repeating something over and over doesn't make it true. I agree.

  28. At 02:07 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Aetius wrote:

    One factor that seems to have escaped just about all the commentators on this subject (apart from RDS) is that the increase in numbers of animals used has taken place against the background of a medical research sector that has expanded considerably in the last decade, and particularly since 2000, as a result of increases funding and investment by industry.

    In contrast the decreases in animal use in the 1980's and 1990's happened at a time when funding of medical research was pretty moribund in real terms under the Tories. RDS states that the increase in funding from government, industry and charities has been about 50% in real terms. That seems a bit low to me (I thought it was nearer 75%) but then inflation in the research sector has been higher than general inflation due to the need to increase stipends, full costing, expensive new equipment etc. so the 50% figure might be more accurate in terms of the additional research it will buy.

    Still it's pretty clear that a lot more medical research is happening now than in the mid 1990's, and since animal research is a pretty important part of the whole medical research process it's not surprising that there has been a knock on effect on the numbers of animal experiments. What does surprise me is that few people seem to have made the connection.

    Or to put it simply, if you pay for more research to be done, more research gets done, so the continuing decrease in the proportion of medical research that uses animals has been canceled out by the overall rise in medical research.

    It's no coincidence that the UK is both the capital of Europe for medical research and the capital of Europe for animal research.

  29. At 02:42 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    @19, in point 2, bdavies wrote: "We believe that the three Rs principles are firmly embedded in the scientific community." (Elsewhere in his/her posts s/he writes "I".)

    The use of the plural to my mind implies that bdavies was speaking on behalf of others rather than just personally, at least in respect of that belief, and given that bdavies was decrying in that post the incomplete information given about Professor Michael Balls' past history and affiliations, I do feel both a need and an entitlement to know what organisation or group bdavies' "we" is, in order to know what significance I must attach to the assertions made elsewhere by bdavies.

    Speaking entirely for myself I therefore ask, "On whose behalf were you speaking there, please, bdavies? Who are 'we' in this context?"

  30. At 03:06 PM on 25 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    Chris Ghoti (29): RDS

  31. At 04:04 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Aetius wrote:

    bdavies's position is that shared by the vast majority of UK medical researchers, though strictly speaking I suppose she's representing the 4,000 or so members of RDS.

  32. At 05:16 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    bdavies, sorry for my appearing sceptical: I can't find any reference to RDS in your posts, so I think it may have been reasonable for me to wonder. I must have missed posts from you on some other thread that made the matter clear, or failed to recall your name as attached to them, or something.

    I can find in this thread no expansion of the cryptic initials RDS, though, nor mention of them before Aetius' post @28 (which hadn't appeared here when I asked my question), and "RDS" means "radio data system" to me, so I am no wiser for your informing me that you represent that set of initials, nor does Aetius' helpful figure of 4,000 members get me much forrader. But I thank you for your courtesy in replying to my enquiry.

    (I speculate, mildly, about the Radical Dentists' Symposium, which was what came first to my mind. That professional body is a fine thought to conjure with, but not, I suspect, what you are talking about, and I have a feeling that it probably doesn't exist even though it probably ought to. But oh sad, my Nuffield Foundation brother tells me it's "Research Defence Society, a lobbying group". I think the Radical Dentists sound much more entertaining.)

    OK, now I know where you're coming from. Thank you.

  33. At 06:14 PM on 25 Jul 2007, Christopher Landau wrote:

    I have been reading today's comments with interest.

    Bdavies, to make it clear, is the communications director for the Research Defence Society, with whom I arranged the interview with Simon Festing from the Society.

    Eric, I am pleased to have raised at least one cheer!

    One reflection: in both the piece some weeks ago featuring Professor John Martin (a researcher who was unusually willing to explain his own role in animal research) and in yesterday's interview with Professor Michael Balls (who had advised the government over the 1986 Act in question at the high court this week) we featured extended interviews with people who have a particularly insightful perspective to offer on a controversial issue - whether by virtue of history or simply by being the sort of person from whom listeners would seldom hear.

    Radio programmes, and PM in particular, thrive on enabling the audience to hear voices that sometimes get crowded out from formulaic "on the one hand, on the other"-type debates. I hope that Professors Martin and Balls both fit that bill.

  34. At 07:42 PM on 25 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    Thank you for your clarification, Christopher! As this has turned somewhat ad hominem (or is that ad feminem?), I should say that if I was seeking to hide my identity or background I would not have used my real name.

    I assumed that any antis posting here would be familar with the acronym RDS, especially as we tend to use the acronym rather than the full name - my bad assumption! Actually if you google RDS it comes up as the third entry on the first page of returns.

    I am a biological scientist by training and I would not work for RDS unless I really believed that animal research was important for medical progress.

  35. At 12:41 AM on 26 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    bdavies @ 34

    I wanted to know who "we" was: nothing more. No personal attack on you was intended, and I didn't think you were deliberately hiding; it just seemed strange for someone who was so consistently singular to be plural on one occasion, given that I had not the faintest idea who you were. So I asked.

    As you will see from my post @4, I am not strictly speaking an "anti", by which I assume you mean someone implacably opposed to animal experimentation in all circumstances. I do find deliberately causing animal suffering extremely distasteful, as well as potentially damaging to the researcher, and I do feel strongly that it should never be undertaken except as a last resort. I also feel strongly that if it can be demonstrated to be the *only* way to conduct a desired test, all results of research carried out on animals should be published in their entirety so that no needless duplication of animal suffering is involved at the time or at any future time.

    A further worry that I did not mention in my previous post is that I cannot help feeling that for so long as animals are regarded as available for research purposes, efforts to find alternative research tools and methods will not be made as strenuously as they might be if animal research were forbidden. It is altogether too usual, if there is a method for going about things that has precedent, for people to look no further than what is already known, and feel a need for innovation, which requires rather more effort and skull-sweat.

    It is also demonstrable that whilst some animal research may be reliable and valid, some is *not*, and reliance on it is not necessarily safe: thalidomide is the most notorious example of an appalling waste of rats. Had the rats been unavailable, the unfortunate assumption that if the drug were safe for pregnant rats it would be equally safe for pregnant humans could not have been made, and the drug might not have been marketed specifically as being safer than valium for pregnant women. (If it is true, as I think has been asserted, that the research data in that case were falsified, at whatever level, I don't think that speaks any better as a justification of animal experimentation, really.)

    Mark Thwaite suggests above that parsley kills parrots. I don't have a spare parrot to try this on, and wouldn't anyway, but might there not equally well be things that do not kill parrots (or rats, or any other animal) but do kill people?

    By the way, RDS isn't an acronym, which means a pronouncable name made up of initial letters or parts of words, like "RADA" or "radar". It's just initials... ones that have had a particular meaning for some while in a field other than yours, which makes them confusing when used in a completely different context from the expected one.

  36. At 08:03 AM on 26 Jul 2007, Eric Ceilio wrote:

    bdavies (26):

    Well, yes, I have seen rather a lot of evidence that animal experiments don't work, some of it even peer reviewed, which is more than you have been able to produce in its support. But I've also seen lots of evidence that they are not necessary, whether or not you accept their efficacy. Let me relate a personal anecdote that partly explains my stance, as a (physical) scientist, on animal experimentation.

    Some years ago I was written a prescription by a GP for a minor condition. This medication had unpleasant side effects that I wasn't warned of, so I did a bit of internet research. I found some safety documentation from the US regulatory process online, including details of the animal tests done on the product's active ingredient before it was approved. I read many pages of dry scientific description of animals being tested with no ill effects before being "sacrificed". At the end was the section on teratogenicity, i.e. whether the compound caused birth defects. Pregnant rats, rabbits and dogs were all killed in these experiments that showed no sign of birth defect whatsoever. And the conclusion? It was recommended that pregnant women should not use this product as the teratogenicity experiments were not conclusive. At this point I realised that this was not science, but regulatory hoop jumping. If this just wasted money that wouldn't be too bad, but when it leads to painful deaths of sentient beings it is just plain wrong.

    bdavies has obviously plenty of time to reply to this thread, but hasn't answered the simple question I posed in (26): "Do you avoid cosmetics and household products that have ingredients tested on animals after a fixed cut off date? If so you are supporting the testing of these products on animals."

    What is the bdavies/RDS position on houshold testing? Has it dropped to zero procedures in 2006 because it is unnecessary, and therefore according to you illegal? What about food additive testing in the UK? Necessary or not? Agrochemicals? Necessary or not?

  37. At 11:04 AM on 26 Jul 2007, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    All,

    It ain't just animals suffering!

    An estimated 90 percent of the world’s biodiversity lies within the territories of indigenous peoples, whether the Amazon, the Indian subcontinent, or the North Woods. A new form of colonialism, known as biocolonialism, is reaching deep into the heart of these communities. As Stephanie Howard wrote for the Indigenous People’s Council on Biocolonialism, “The flow of genes is primarily from indigenous communities and rural communities in ‘developing countries’ to the Northern-based genetics industry. Ninety-seven percent of all patents are held by industrialized countries.”
    http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/305

    xx
    ed

  38. At 11:34 AM on 26 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Eric Ceilio @36:

    I don't think that the personal lifestyle choices made by bdavies would add much to the argument: his/her decisions about what products s/he uses may or may not be informed by knowledge of animal testing, but I don't feel that they are relevant.

    I do find your research into the research interesting. Thank you. I had suspected that in at least some cases where animals were used in the testing of products for safety they were used in ways that were unproductive or even futile, and what you say seems to bear this out to some degree. "Regulatory hoop-jumping" is a very good phrase to describe exactly what I had been wary of. However, you say that this was "some years ago": we may perhaps hope that at least some of this unnecessary or pointless cruelty is no longer being practised -- as I am sure bdavies would assert.

    Wasn't the figure of three million animals being "sacrificed" per annum mentioned at one point? What I would really want to know would be, what percentage of those died for inconclusive results; only if all the results are published could this figure be known. So my question to bdavies would be, "Is this figure known, and if so what is it?" I do not question that if animal testing is to be done at all, some of it will produce results that are of no use, but it seems to me that how much is no use is a very pertinent point in this debate. This needs to be measured in dead animals who suffered to no particular end, really.

    I'd also like to have facts about the animal testing that was involved in developing the polio vaccine: what species were involved?

    One rather sad result of animal experimentation seems to have been that the mice sold in pet-shops for children to keep as pets are now mostly descended from laboratory mice, and seem to be a great deal more prone to tumours than pet mice used to be. Of the eighteen mice kept by my son during his Mouse Phase, purchased from four sources, the first fourteen had to be humanely killed by a vet after developing huge tumours that caused them obvious discomfort, in some cases at less than a year old. Only after we had found a pet-shop whose owner bred her own mice from uncontaminated stock did we have mice who lived to a more reasonable age of four and in one case five years. (She didn't buy mice at all except those bred from mice she had bred in the first place, because she wanted to keep her stock free of problems, as she explained to us. Luckily she knew us by the time we had nineteen unexpected and utterly charming mouselings to find homes for, after the male mouse had managed to break into the females' cage...)

  39. At 01:24 PM on 26 Jul 2007, Eric Ceilio wrote:

    Chris (38)

    OK, I confess that I'm asking a question of bdavies that I can well guess the answer to. What I am trying (unsuccessfully) to do is to get bdavies/RDS to admit that they support non-medical testing. They don't admit to this because they realise there is little public support for that position.

    As far as I understand it, teratogenicity testing on animals is still one of the standard suite of tests performed on all new pharmaceutical products. The reasoning in the case I wrote about still holds though - why take the risk of subjecting a foetus to an as yet undetermined risk. I don't believe this is yet in the past. Does bdavies want to comment on this I wonder?

  40. At 06:12 PM on 26 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Eric, @ 39, doesn't seem that way. Maybe s/he can't find this thread now it's no longer on the front page.

  41. At 06:17 PM on 26 Jul 2007, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    Eric, @ 39, doesn't seem that way. Maybe s/he can't find this thread now it's no longer on the front page.

    (If this appears many times, it's because I keep being told there is a network error; sorry for possible repetition.)

  42. At 04:01 PM on 27 Jul 2007, bdavies wrote:

    Sorry for the delay in coming back on various questions - I do have other things to do.

    Not everything in this debate is black and white. If we need new household products (or more likely ingredients) then, like everything else, they need to be safe - for consumers and their families, for the environment, for production workers, for transportation. At the very least, information about antidotes to accidental exposure is necessary. Some animal tests will be required.

    Bear in mind that every animal procedure is subject to a cost benefit analysis before it is licensed. So any animal testing that caused more than very mild suffering would not be allowed for a 'trivial' product.

    The "do we need it" question goes beyond the scope of this debate, but it is easy to see that many different people would welcome the development of novel products or ingredients that are more environmentally friendly and as safe as possible.

    On the thalidomide question, contrary to antivivisection mythology it was NOT tested on pregnant animals before being given to pregnant women. Once the tragic consequences came to light, tests on pregnant animals resulted in similar deformities (although in some cases fetuses were absorbed so initially the effect wasn't seen). This led to a change in the law so now it is mandatory to test all new medicines on pregnant animals.

This post is closed to new comments.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.