Charity defends animal testing

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BRITAIN'S BIGGEST research charity has appealed to the Government not to change the law that allows experiments on animals for medical purposes.

The Wellcome Trust, which funds more medical research than the Government's research council, says a reduction or ban on animal experiments would have "dire consequences" for the treatment and elimination of human illnesses.

Michael Dexter, the director of the Wellcome Trust, has written to George Howarth, the Home Office minister responsible for animal experiments, urging him not to be influenced by the publicity surrounding Barry Horne, the animal rights hunger striker. "I urge that you adopt a cautious approach and avoid issuing a statement that could be interpreted as a commitment to further reduce and ultimately eliminate animal use for medical research," Dr Dexter says. "This would have major consequences of slowing or preventing the progress of medical research in the UK."

Dr Dexter says 10 per cent of the "total world effort" in medicine comes from Britain. Animals involved in medical research are used only when strictly necessary and they are kept in the best conditions possible. "What is completely deplorable is the threat by extremist elements to kill those engaged in trying to help other humans and animals."

Discussions between scientists and peaceful members of the animal rights movement are already talking place and could be placed on a more formal footing with the Government's help, Dr Dexter says.