Opinion: Stand up and be counted on animal tests

Nick Cater, a consultant and writer, catercharity@yahoo.co.uk

So, which side are you on - and have you signed up yet? In the long-running battle over scientific testing using animals, the chance to take an anonymous stand at thepeoplespetition.org.uk is a welcome move to maintain the rights of those engaged in this aspect of medical research.

But should charities do more to defend what some condemn as indefensible?

A few - just 112 - are members of the Association of Medical Research Charities, but thousands more should consider the benefits their clients have or will gain from animal experiments, and line up to support science, not sentiment.

Given continuing violence and intimidation by protesters, charities with any link to animal tests must understand how they could be the next target and recognise that mutual defence demands a united front against those whose creed amounts to 'four legs good, two legs bad'. The offensive against charities has already begun, with lists published on the internet of causes that donors are urged to abhor. Some lists come with addresses and phone numbers, which are hardly essential items for those seeking to avoid giving, but useful for breaking windows or making threatening phone calls.

If drug company shareholders face blackmail because their details are openly available, and suppliers to animal breeding farms - even the newsagent and cleaner - experience harassment, charities must expect the worst.

Perhaps charities need to conceal the private details of senior staff, establish how to avoid naming trustees and pump up their security.

But charities should also come clean: do all donors know of the animal experiments done in their name and with their money? And tell the truth: medical research injures, infects and kills thousands of rabbits, dogs, monkeys. Surely it is better for charities to make the case by talking honestly to staff, volunteers and donors than to leave a vacuum for extremist propaganda.

For most, animal experiments are a pragmatic choice to meet health needs.

On those grounds, several billion people should urge a massive expansion of animal experiments to tackle the medical research priorities of the poor south, not just those of the rich north.

Instead, because the health of the world is more about greed than need, animal rights prophets can rely on drug firm profits to let humans die while beasts survive.

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