British Health Minister Says Animal Research Is "Absolutely Essential"

Lord Philip Hunt, Great Britain’s Health Minister, gave a speech this week to the Association of Medical Research Charities in which he outlined the Labor government’s policy on animal research. Hunt said,

Of course, animals should only be used in experiments where there is no alternative. But it is also clear that properly regulated animal research is absolutely essential to the discovery of new treatments, as well as to the assessment of the safety and efficacy of medicines. That is why we have strengthened the law that protects all involved in research — in the private, public and charitable sectors — to ensure that this vital work can continue.

Hunt repeated previous government statements that the sort of situation that occurred with Huntingdon Life Sciences would not happen again. According to Hunt,

The Government endorses the right to democratic protest. Equally, we condemn the violent intimidation that has taken place, and have introduced strong measures against harassment of people involved with animal research.

Predictably, animal rights groups attacked the speech. According to Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler, the speech was “part of a rather sordid and unconvincing propaganda offensive from the Government, because the argument for animal testing is slipping away from them.”

Michelle Thew of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection complained that, “There is a policy vacuum within the government — no vision, no strategy, no radical agenda for reform and no recognition to reflect the considerable and growing public concern about animal experiments.”

Jan Creamer of the National Anti-vivisection Society chimed in by claiming that “Every time the government has issued licenses to use animal testing, we have been able to find an alternative method.”

Of course, Reuters summed up the reality of the situation noting that,

Currently, most scientists believe that tests in animals are still the best way to study disease or to gauge the effectiveness of treatments before they are tried in humans.

And in most cases they are not just the best way but rather than only realistic way to test.


Animal research essential, UK government says. Manfreda Cavazza, Reuters Health, April 16, 2002.

Minister defends animal experiments. The BBC, April 16, 2002.

It Doesn't Work Perfectly Yet, So Lets Ban Cloning

Dolly, the cloned sheep, has arthritis. This is apparently big news.

It is big news, of course, because of fears that the arthritis might have something to do with the cloning process. We’ve already learned that many cloned animals have serious health problems, so perhaps Dolly’s predicament might be due to being a cloned animal. Or it could be that Dolly simply is one of a small number of sheep who suffer from arthritis young.

As researcher Ian Wilmut told BBC Radio 4, “There is no way of knowing if this is down to cloning or whether it is a coincidence. We will never know the answer to that question.”

Wilmut has called for an independent study to examine the health of cloned animals. Animal rights activist, of course, have a different response — ban animal cloning.

Sarah Kite of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection told the BBC,

Scientists seem to think that they can mix and match animals’ genes in a controlled way, but actually the control is an illusion. No one yet understands exactly how genes work or what the effects will be on the innocent animals who are subjected to biotechnology.

By all means, since scientists don’t understand exactly how genes work, it seems obvious that the only logical conclusion is that research into how genes work should be banned. How did everyone in the scientific community miss the sort of simple logic that BUAV grasps so easily?

Joyce D’Silva of Compassion in World Farming chimes in as well, telling the BBC,

I think the hundreds and hundreds of other cloned lambs who have been born and had malformed hearts, lungs or kidneys. They have struggled to survive for a few days and then had their lungs filled with fluid and gasped their way to death or had to be put out of their misery by their creators. That is the real story of cloning.

Note, however, that Compassion in World Farming is on the record as being opposed to animal cloning even if researchers figure out how to avoid the problems seen with some cloned animals. The group’s web site says of cloning,

Even if cloning becomes more efficient, CIWF believes it is likely to be a welfare disaster for farm animals. Selective breeding has had a bad record for welfare. Herds of identical cloned animals would lead to even greater loss of genetic diversity with unforeseeable results in terms of illness for the animals. Transgenic pigs used for xenotransplants would have to live their lives in unnatural, sterile conditions. CIWF believes that the suffering involved in cloning and genetically engineering cannot be justified by the benefits claimed by the scientists and multinational biotechnology companies.

In other words, even if researchers succeed in creating a cloned pig whose heart can be successfully transplanted into a human being suffering from heart disease, “the suffering involved … cannot be justified by the benefits.”


Dolly’s arthrities sparks cloning row. The BBC, January 4, 2002.

Genetic Engineering Campaign. Compassion in World Farming, Factsheet, June 28, 2001

Number of Animals Used for Medical Experiments Increases in the UK

The Labour government in Great Britain won’t win any friends among animal rights activists when it announces sometime in August that for the first time since the early 1970s, the number of animals used in medical experiments in the UK rose for two consecutive years. While courting animal activist votes in 1996, the Labour Party promised a special commission to reduce the number of animals used in experiments.

According to government figures, the number of animals used increased 1 percent in 1998 and could have increased up to 3 percent in 1999. Why?

Part of the problem is the way the UK counts the number of animals used in experiments. The big increase is occurring in areas of genetic engineering experiments. In many of these experiments an animals, such as a mouse, is genetically modified and then an experiment is conducted on the mouse. Under the way the UK measures the number of animals used in research, there is a strong possibility that the mouse will be counted twice — once when it is genetically modified and then again when the experiment is carried out.

Still even with this double counting problem, the sheer explosion in human knowledge about genetic engineering has probably led to an increase in the number of animal experiments being conducted in Great Britain and around the world. That should be hailed as a good thing, since it represents scientists getting ever closer to treatments for debilitating and deadly human diseases, but instead the Labour Party clearly fears the reaction from animal rights activists.

Meanwhile although the number of animals used for medical research is rising, it’s not rising nearly fast enough for medical researchers. More than 100 British scientists, including five Nobel Prize winners, recently signed a letter arguing that the UK’s onerous regulation of animal experiments was holding back important research that would inevitably be driven abroad unless the government streamlines the process. According to the letter.

Researchers using animals are already in a situation where overseas competitors can complete a series of experiments and be exploiting the results before permission to start would be given in the UK. If this situation persists or gets worse, as it has recently, it appears inevitable that a substantial part of the UK’s research effort, in many vital areas, will either become uncompetitive or forced abroad.

Animal rights activists such as the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection’s Michelle Thew reacted predictably that in fact the regulations don’t go far enough. “I’m staggered that they are calling for less animal regulation when the regulations we have aren’t working properly,” Thew said.

Professor Nancy Rothwell of Manchester University said that new paperwork requirements can cause research applications to run 50 to 100 pages in excruciating detail, and delay approval of research involving animals by 6 months or more.


Red tape on animal experiments hold Britain back, say scientists. Nigel Hawkes, The Times (UK), June 13, 2000.

Animal testing appeal sparks protest. The BBC. June 13, 2000.

Second rise in animal experiments alarm ministers. Nigel Hawkes. The Times (UK). July 24, 2000.

Activists in Great Britain 'fabricated cruelty evidence'

Last June the
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) filed a complaint
with the Home Office complaining that Harlan UK Centre, a medical research
facility, was engaged in cruel mistreatment of animals. The BUAV regularly
files these sorts of complaints against research companies in the UK.

The difference
this time is that a Labour Member of Parliament, Stephen Ladyman, is turning
the tables on BUAV and wondering what the group has to hide. One of the
reasons BUAV is so anxious to file reports against research facilities
is that, under British law, it has requested that the resulting reports,
including any exoneration of the facility, remain confidential, and generally
the government has gone along.

Ladyman and others
requested that the report on Harlan UK Centre be released, and it was,
but only after BUAV asked (and got) large sections of the report blacked
out. What exactly does BUAV have to hide?

A lot according
to Ladyman who said, “The usual pattern of events is that BUAV make allegations,
splash them all over the newspapers but refuse to allow the report to
be published when people are exonerated. I can only assume that they are
prepared to fabricate evidence to win sympathy for their cause.”

The report did
vindicate Harlan, concluding that the claims of animal cruelty and neglect
were unfounded. According to Ladyman, BUAV intentionally manufactured
false claims. BUAV claimed, for example, that Harlan was not feeding animals
adequately, but according to Ladyman it was an undercover BUAV operative
who was responsible for feeding the animals (wow, where have we seen that
scam before?)

BUAV claims the
report is just a government “whitewash,” saying through a spokesman that
“Wherever there is a conflict of evidence between what the BUAV investigator
says and what Harlan staff say, the report choose to believe the latter.”

Which could be
because Harlan isnÂ’t manufacturing evidence, unlike the BUAV investigator,
but regardless if the report is such a shameless whitewash that naively
takes HarlanÂ’s word for it, a reasonable person might conclude that BUAV
would definitely want the full report published in that case to expose
the governmentÂ’s complicity in protecting animal abusers.

Ironically, according
to a report on the controversy from Americans for Medical Progress, BUAV
and other UK antivivisection opponents “have been lobbying for a Freedom
of Information Act that would require full disclosure of pueblo and private
information about research.”

BUAV could set
an example for the researchers and fully disclose the results of the investigation
into Harlan as well as the results of previous investigations which went
unpublished at BUAVÂ’s request.


Activists ‘fabricated cruelty evidence’. Jill Sherman, The Times (UK), March
9, 2000.

UK activists accused of fabricating cruelty
charges. Americans for Medical Progress News, March 9, 2000.

Procter and Gamble Abandons Animal Testing, But Activists Still Not Satisfied

Procter and Gamble recently announced that it would end all animal tests on
all “current beauty, fabric and home care, and paper products.” That
decision was initially hailed by some animal rights groups such as People for
the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which tried to take credit for P&G’s

In Defense of Animals suggested, however, that the whole thing might be a sham.
In a response to P&G, IDA’s Elliot Katz said,

It has been their [Procter & Gamble’s] competitive nature in the
past that has led to enormous suffering, and it is inherent corporate greed
that is allowing them to continue torturing animals on future products. There
is always apprehension that such grand statements are made for public relations
reasons as opposed to concern and compassion for the animals. Because they
have been disingenuous in the past, there is reason to be leery now.

The sticking point seems to be Procter & Gamble’s apparent intention
to test new ingredients and new products formed from old ingredients on animals.
The proposed solution offered by some animal rights activists is typical of
these groups’ mentality. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection
suggested in a press release that, “P&G [should] wash their hands of
animal testing for good by using only combinations of the thousands of ingredients
already proven safe, which do not necessitate further animal testing.”

Will transplant recipients be less than human?

Animal rights activists seem to
be increasingly desperate in their fight against Xenotransplantation
the transplanting of organs and tissues from animals into human beings.
First, they argued such transplantation simply wouldn’t work. After
that argument failed, they argued there were enormous dangers of passing
diseases between animals and humans. Now that the evidence indicates this
risk is minimal, the activists are pulling out the big guns in their rhetorical
grab bag – people who receive animal organs aren’t really human.

According to Gill Langley, who
co-wrote a recent report on xenotransplantation for the
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and Compassion in World Farming, “The
human xenotransplantation patient will become a literal chimera. It sounds
like scare-mongering, but let me assure you that the word chimera is being
used by xenotransplant scientists.”

Scare-mongering? From an animal rights

If the thought of being less than
human isn’t enough, Langley’s report warns that patients whose
lives are saved by these new technologies (which he still claims won’t
work) could face unknown psychological consequences.

So this is the justification
that animal rights activists are going to present to the 50,000 people
in Europe alone who are waiting to receive organs? Xenotransplantation
must be stopped to prevent those dying individuals from becoming less
than human and suffering the attendant psychological side effects. Better
dead than depressed?


Activists say animal transplants make us less human. Reuters, October 13, 1998.