Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Commentary: Protesters Against Animal Experimentation Should Not Be Caricatured As Anti-Science and Anti-Progress: Dispelling Lies and Politics

An excellent commentary. Though is written in the UK in response to the draconian Oxford University, it really applies to rational activists everywhere. And note that this person isn’t some off the wall wacko as they’d like to say, she’s a person who actually graduated from Oxford and is now returning her degree.

Of course though, in the game of politics, the huge political Oxford and those like it will always want to lie and make up childlike names to belittle the other side.


We're not terrorists, and we're not against progress

Protesters against animal experimentation should not be caricatured as anti-science, says Sharon Howe

Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

Despite his Orwellian imagery, Timothy Garton Ash's stereotypical presentation of an enlightened pro-vivisection elite versus an ignorant and destructive bunch of "antis" is hardly consistent with his declared belief in the "pursuit of truth and the defence of reason" (We must stand up to the creeping tyranny of the group veto, March 2). These principles are genuinely close to my heart. That's why I am passionately opposed to animal experimentation. And that's why I am returning my first-class Oxford degree as a personal protest against the university's new biomedical research centre.

Yes, animal testing has always gone on at Oxford. But the university has also produced some eminent critics of animal-based research: John Ruskin resigned his position as professor of literature the day after vivisection was introduced.

It is ironic that Garton Ash should centre his argument on the importance of free speech, as it is this vital privilege which is being eroded by the injunction imposed upon those who wish to exercise their right to peaceful protest - they are now allowed to voice their views outside the college only between 1pm and 5pm on Thursdays.

It may make for better headlines to portray anti-vivisectionists as terrorists bent on obstructing medical progress, but it couldn't be further from the truth. The vast majority are compassionate individuals who find it an outrage that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is wasted on outdated and misleading animal-based research, while doctors at Oxford's own Radcliffe Infirmary are crying out for funds to invest in human-based stroke research.

The time has come for a proper, reasoned debate: to get away from the specious "dog or child" dilemma with which pro-vivisectionists seek to play on our fears. The Home Office itself admitted that it "has not commissioned or evaluated any formal research on the efficacy of animal experiments".

Despite the fact that human brains can now be studied non-invasively using hi-tech scanners, diseases such as Parkinson's - for which I am particularly keen to see a cure as I watch my own mother suffer from its debilitating effects - are still being painfully and artificially induced in monkeys who do not naturally develop them.

But the tide of public opinion is changing. Plans for a similar animal lab at Cambridge were abandoned after the university failed to prove a "national need" at a public planning meeting. In 2002, MEPs voted for a complete review of the use of all primates in experiments. And there has been strong support among MPs for an Early Day Motion calling for an independent scientific evaluation of the clinical relevance of animal testing - support shared by 83% of GPs, according to a survey by Europeans for Medical Progress.

The technology to achieve change already exists - it is institutional inertia and vested interests that are holding back progress. Here is the perfect opportunity to move forward and develop a centre of excellence for cutting-edge, non-animal research which would only enhance Oxford's reputation as a seat of human progress. Then I too could regain my pride in being associated with it.

Sharon Howe is a graduate of Oxford university

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