Animal rights campaigners 'could set cancer research back decades'


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The Independent Online

Health charities last night warned vital medical research into cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's may be set back by decades because of a high-profile boycott campaign by animal rights campaigners.

Animal Aid plans to take out newspaper ads urging the public to stop giving money to Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the Alzheimer's Society and Parkinson's UK unless they end support for animal testing.

The campaign has been condemned as irresponsible by the charities and scientists, who warn it could set back medical research and damage other important areas of the charities' work.

"This is an illogical and ill-conceived campaign," said Lord Willis of Knaresborough, the chairman of the Association of Medical Research Charities. It will have consequences for charities targeted, he added as, during tight economic times, a small downturn in donations could put any cures back by decades.

Colin Blakemore, Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said: "This is an utterly irresponsible attack by Animal Aid "

Animal Aid yesterday published a report,Victims of Charity, which it claimed highlighted charity-funded tests that caused "appalling suffering". In total, 66 charities were identified as using public donations to fund animal research.

The four named UK charities were singled out as organisations of "some standing". Together they have annual income of more than £710m. Animal Aid urged people to withhold donations until charities promised to stop funding animal experiments.

Its director, Andrew Tyler, said: "Animal Aid is under no illusions as to the pro-animal research lobby's financial and political clout. But the public do not like the idea of animals enduring great suffering to no purpose, and Victims of Charity argues that this is precisely what is happening."

But Professor Tipu Aziz, who has conducted research using animals in his work on Alzheimer's, said it would have been impossible without them. "If you stop animal research you will stop medical progress," Professor Aziz said.

Dr David Scott, director of science funding at Cancer Research UK, said: "We do no research with monkeys, dogs or cats. We have strict ethical policies and follow guidelines to ensure that animals are only used where there's no alternative."