Hypocrite Against Animal Research

Over the weekend, the Times of London ran an interesting profile of an animal rights activist who has actively campaigned against Huntingdon Life Sciences and other animal research firms in the UK, but who now is using treatments tested on animals to treat her breast cancer.

According to the Times, Janet Tomlinson, 61, has been an active campaigner in a number of animal rights protests in the UK, from the successful campaign against Hilgrove, to the current campaigns against the Newchurch guinea pig farm and Huntingdon Life Sciences. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Tomlinson had no problem running to doctors to receive the sort of treatments that would never have been developed had she had her way.

Tomlinson uses a number of justifications for her behavior. The classic, of course, is the Mary Beth Sweetland defense — Tomlinson’s taking the drugs for the animals,

I can do more good for animals staying alive than dying.

Well, of course — she and her fellow animal rights activists are special. Why shouldn’t they partake of the fruits of the animal research industry? Hell, who could blame Tomlinson if she wanted to enjoy a nice steak or wear leather, either. After all, she’s doing it for the animals.

Her second line of reasoning is that it’s really all the drug companies fault. In fact — pay close attention here — the drug companies are guilty of criminal behavior for providing her with a treatment that might extend her life,

If this testing on animals is as beneficial as the doctors say, then it would stop cancer. But it hasn’t — and that has to be criminal. It helps some, and chemo might help me and kill the infected cells, but it might not. I should not have to live with that fear when scientists have had so much money and tested enough animals and yet they can’t tell me the treatment will work.

Thanks to medical advances in detection and treatment, the 20-year breast cancer survival rate is as high as 65 percent in some countries. In the United States, deaths from breast cancer fell from almost 34 per 100,000 in the late 1980s to less than 27 per 100,000 in 1999. Ah, those wiley criminal scientists.

And, of course, Tomlinson hedges her bets. In case she does live another 20 years or more, it won’t be due to the animal-tested drugs she’s taking,

If I’m saved, it will be in spite of the drugs being tested on animals. All my friends are telling me I’m the guinea pig because whether you recover or not, it is a fluke of nature, a lottery.

Just because the drugs are tested on animals it does not mean that we are going to survive. I am only taking the course of action I am because there is no alternative. I really don’t see how putting an electrode in a monkey’s head or stripping fur on a guinea pig and sticking toxic liquid on it has helped me or is going to help me. It’s disgusting that I don’t have a choice.

But, of course, she has an obvious choice — don’t accept the treatment. If animal research is complete hooey and Tomlinson can’t see how experimenting on animals might help her or other breast cancer patients, then don’t reward drug companies by buying their wares. Just say not to animal-tested drugs.

Instead Tomlinson would prefer the hypocrisy of accepting the only treatments proven to increase the odds of survival in women afflicted with breast cancer, while simultaneously raging against the individuals, companies and governments for encouraging the sort of research that led to these treatments in the first place.


The animal lab critic, cancer and hypocrisy. Valerie Elliott, The Times (London), August 28, 2004.

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