Animal rights group declares war on leading health charities

Research into cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's could be set back by boycott

Britain's leading health charities last night warned that vital medical research into cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's could be set back by decades because of a high-profile boycott campaign being launched by animal rights campaigners.

Animal Aid plans to take out a series of newspaper adverts 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 their support for animal testing.

But the campaign has been condemned as irresponsible and damaging by the charities and scientists, who have warned that 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 as, during tight economic times, any small downturn in donations could really put back cures by decades."

Colin Blakemore, a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Oxford, added: "This is an utterly irresponsible attack by Animal Aid on some of the most important charitable contributors to medical research in this country.

"These charities have a duty to use money given to them to support patients and to understand and treat disease. They support research on animals only when it's absolutely essential. If Animal Aid were successful in discouraging donation to medical charities, they would be guilty of delaying progress towards treatments and cures for devastating conditions."

Animal Aid yesterday published a report called Victims of Charity which, it said, highlighted charity-funded tests which caused "appalling suffering" to animals such as mice, monkeys, pigs and dogs. In total, 66 charities were identified as using public donations to fund animal research.

The four named charities were singled out as organisations of "some standing". Together they have an income of more than £710m a year. Animal Aid called on members of the public to withhold donations from the charities until they promise 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 as part of his work on Alzheimer's, said it would not have been possible without them. "Medical breakthroughs throughout history have been achieved through animal research," he said. "If you stop animal research you will stop medical progress."

Privately, the charities are concerned that the Animal Action campaign could have an effect on donations – but they are also worried about tackling the organisation head-on in case it exacerbates the problem. But scientists who work in the area argue that this concern is misplaced. They point out that, since the scientific community took on animal rights activists, public support for testing had increased.

Research carried out last year by Ipsos Mori showed that nine in 10 people accepted the idea of animal research and testing to some degree. About three-quarters accepted animal studies as long as they were for medical research purposes.

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."

Wendy Higgins, from Humane Society International, said she urged supporters to back medical charities which did not use animal research.

"There are charities you can give money to which do not use animals in their research and we would encourage our people to make a positive choice to support them," she said.

Groups in the line of fire

Cancer Research UK
Annual income: £446m (2009/2010)
Annual funding for research involving animals: £334m but no breakdown for animal experiments.
Species of animal Mice, fruit flies, microscopic worms. No trials on monkeys, dogs, cats.
Comment: "We have strict ethical policies in relation to animals and follow rigorous government guidelines to ensure that animals are only used where there's no alternative. Millions of people are alive thanks to life-saving treatments for cancer."

British Heart Foundation
Annual income: £214m (2009/2010)
Annual funding for research involving animals: £48.4m (2009/2010).
Species of animal Mice, rats, zebrafish. Sometimes uses "other animals", not specified.
Comment: "Research funded by the BHF advances our understanding of the heart and circulatory system in order to improve our ability to prevent, diagnose, monitor and treat cardiovascular disease – saving and improving the lives of those people affected."

Alzheimer’s Society

Annual income: £58.7m (2009/2010)
Annual funding for research involving animals: £700,000 (approximately)
Species of animal Maggots, flies, mice and rats. No funds for research on primates.
Comment: "Our research aims to move us closer to a cure and improve the quality of life of people with dementia. We strive to ensure that alternatives are used where possible, that the minimum number of animals are used and that researchers keep to the highest welfare standards."

Parkinson's UK
Annual income: £21m (2010)
Annual funding for research involving animals: £8m (approximately)
Species of animal Fruit flies, worms, rodents, zebrafish.
Comment: "Experiments involving accurate animal models of Parkinson's are the key to improved drug screening and swifter movement into clinical trials involving humans for the best drugs that will allow people with Parkinson's to lead a normal life, free from its symptoms."

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
A photo of Charles Belk being detained by police on Friday 22 August
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems & Data Lead – Oxfordshire – Permanent – Up to £24k

£20000 - £24000 Per Annum 28 days holiday, free parking, pension: Clearwater P...

Digital Media Manager

£38000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Secondary Teachers looking for work near Peterborough

£100 - £140 per day + Competitive Pay: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary...

Secondary School Teachers and NQTs required now

£100 - £140 per day + Very competitive pay: Randstad Education Cambridge: Teac...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?