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ACTION - Against animal experiments
Posted 1 March 2002
Animal Aid will be going all out against animal experiments in 2002. Kathy Archibald outlines the basis of Animal Aid's plans for a major new assault against vivisection.
For all its fine pre-election promises, our present government is clearly not listening to our sound ethical and scientific case against animal research. In fact, with science minister Lord Sainsbury at the helm, it is more supportive of the use of animals in biomedical research than ever before.
We have little faith that politicians will act positively on this issue unless they are pressurised into doing so. Therefore, our plan is to build up public support and eventually, to persuade politicians to do their democratic duty to their electorate.
Obstacle to progress
Our message is simple - animal experiments harm people. They are not the 'necessary evil' we have always been led to believe, but rather a massive obstacle to medical progress. They are responsible for hundreds of thousands of human deaths every year. We must unite around this shocking truth. We know that the majority already believe that animal experiments are morally wrong - now we have to help them to understand why they are not necessary, and why they are bad for us.
Of course, we must understand the arguments ourselves before we can convince others. Animal Aid has produced a new report, Bred to Suffer - Animals as Models of Human Disease to expose the full deception of medical research on animals. With your help, we intend to distribute copies to every MP, every science journalist and every university bioscience department.
Trashed to surplus
Medical and pharmaceutical research accounts for the majority of the 2.6 million animals consumed annually in laboratories in Britain - plus the millions more who are bred but then trashed as 'surplus to requirements'. This type of research is also the category that people find hardest to renounce - brainwashed as a great many are into believing that animal experiments have been responsible for virtually all medical progress.
There is still an urgent need to continue to campaign against non-medical animal experiments, too. Cosmetics are no longer animal-tested in this country - thanks to consumer pressure - though the majority on sale here have still been tested on animals in other countries, including some within the EU. Although the European Parliament has voted to ban both the testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics throughout the EU, the Council of Ministers (including the UK) is trying to block this move. The BUAV (www.buav.org) is lobbying the Department of Trade and Industry to vote for the combined ban. The situation should be resolved over the next few months and we will, of course, keep you posted.
181,000 animals were killed in Britain in 2000 to test agricultural, industrial, household and other chemicals - including pesticides, cleaning fluids, polishes and even food additives. Many of these chemicals are intrinsically dangerous and should not be allowed on the market at all, but in the short-term, the emphasis should be on replacing animal tests with validated humane alternatives in chemical safety experiments. We can make a difference as consumers, too. Animal Aid will be looking hard at the animal-testing policies of all the supermarkets, so that we can reveal which household products can be bought with confidence - enabling all of us to choose cruelty-free products.
Massive EU poisoning programme
One of the most alarming recent developments is the massive new Chemicals Testing Programme proposed by the European Commission. 30,000 chemicals are due to be tested on 50 million animals over a 20 year period - the largest poisoning programme in European history. This proposal is in response to a white paper, Strategy for a Future Chemicals Policy, published by the EC in February 2000. The aim is to evaluate the risk to humans and the environment of commonly used chemicals in products such as detergents, paints, varnishes, furniture, carpets, toys, clothes, medicines, pesticides, cosmetics, computers, building materials and food packaging. Some of these are believed to be responsible for the increasing incidence of certain cancers, birth defects, allergies, asthma and skin disorders.
While the aim of the EC plan - the elimination of toxic chemicals from our environment - deserves support, the methods proposed are likely to make things worse rather than better. Mass testing on animals cannot help, because the results cannot be applied to humans with any degree of confidence. French organisation Pro Anima contends that one million EU citizens are already killed every year because of misleading safety information from animal tests. They are lobbying MEPs jointly with Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine (www.dlrm.org) to ensure the use of sound scientific risk assessments and the adoption of more reliable and accurate tests using human cell cultures, rather than inaccurate and unsafe animal testing.
Animal Aid is joining forces with the BUAV and PETA, who have initiated the campaign against the EU plans for mass animal testing of chemicals, and we ask you to sign our e-petition. Not only is this programme one of the greatest threats to laboratory animals in recent years, it is also the greatest opportunity to effect a far-reaching change of approach to humane safety research.
2002 began with the issues of xenotransplantation and animal genetic engineering again rearing their ugly heads. Firstly, PPL Therapeutics claimed a breakthrough in research to make pig organs available for human transplants, but their hype was undermined when it was revealed that one of their earlier 'scientific breakthroughs', Dolly the cloned sheep, is suffering from premature arthritis. We will continue to campaign against the use of animals in biotechnology research, highlighting the suffering, waste, scientific limitations and potentially dangerous implications for human health.
Many thanks to everyone who wrote, attended a demonstration, or helped in any way to campaign against Cambridge University's proposed primate research centre. Congratulations to the Council for making a wise decision and turning the application down.