Letter: New life for animals

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your leading article of 7 December ("Animal welfare is a good cause, but it needs no martyrs") is to be welcomed in that it reminds us of just how specific was Labour's pledge on a Royal Commission into the effectiveness and justification of animal experimentation. The fact that "New Labour, New Life for Animals" was extensively quoted by Labour candidates in pre-election leafleting also supports the reasonable interpretation that the detailed promises it contains had the weight of a full statement of policy, alluded to in the manifesto itself only in passing because of lack of space. All of which justifies the term "betrayal", best encapsulated in the slogan now frequent in animal welfare protests: "Labour stole my vote."

Unfortunately your reference to the argument that the lives of scientists who use animals to alleviate human suffering are less important than those of mice is the kind of emotive hyperbole of which one expects the animal rights lobby to be accused. Certainly, it is a view never espoused by Barry Horne, who has consistently advocated non-violence against people.

Almost everyone who has worked in university research will except that a properly conducted Royal Commission would bring to light the huge proportion of animal experiments that have no transferable benefit in the treatment of life-threatening and painful diseases. Again and again experiments are conducted because researchers are locked into procedures that have become relevant only to the criteria for acquiring external funding and academic promotion.

The freeing of the scientific imagination that would result even from a shift in the balance of funding towards alternatives to animal experiments is a genuinely exciting prospect, both in terms of the elevation of animal suffering and the improvement of public health.