Letter: Vivisection views

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Not so long ago, it was a "scientific fact" that newborn babies could not feel pain. Today, it is a "scientific fact" that the use of morphine for pain relief can lead to addiction. Both these "facts" have and continue to cause a great deal of human pain and suffering.

Your recent reporting on the protests at the Hill Grove cat breeding factory (Weekend Review, 5 September) and Stephen Hawking's beliefs on the value of vivisection make much of facts vs feelings - that protesters are sentimental fools and vivisectionists and their supporters are led by logic. In which case, one wonders why they don't use prisoners, the mentally ill, pensioners, the long-term unemployed and others whose burden on the state outweighs their monetary value. Being human, their response to environment, drugs, surgery and other treatments would result in far more accurate results and speedier trials, costing less, not least to the tax payer.

The value we each put on life and suffering will always be subjective and this is partly due to the way society views that which is considered to be alive and capable of suffering, which is in itself subjective. Australian aborigines, American Indians, the poor and the Irish have all been considered sub-human, incapable of finer feelings, animals. Today, we view such opinion with disbelief, just as society views vivisection with revulsion. That the law condones vivisection does not mean that it is defensible.What changes such laws is, basically, compassion.

Compassion may be far too "sentimental", not nearly logical enough, but I know which society I'd prefer to live in.

CLARE PROUT

London W10

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