Rather than list companies that still do animal testing ("do you still beat your wife?"), it would be more useful and interesting to list those countries that require animal testing before drugs can be sold there, and the origins of those laws. The fact that the law in Britain, Europe and the United States requires drugs to be tested on at least two species of mammals before being approved for use on humans really absolves corporations that do it of any moral dilemmas. To put animal testing into perspective, approximately 20M animals die in British laboratories every year. British butchers slaughter 800M in the same time period. Corporations employing animal testing need to spend a considerable amount of money doing so, and take a considerable reputational risk.

For example, every drug must be tested to gauge its effects on a developing foetus. In Britain, this law was passed in the wake of the Thalidomide disaster, in which an untested drug was prescribed, resulting in horrific deformities in children. It was later found that the drug had the same effect on animal foetuses - if the tests had been done, thousands of children would not have suffered crippling physical handicaps.

The anti-corporate focus of the so-called animal liberation movement is reminiscent of old-fashioned extremist Marxists - but with the advantage that unlike the proletariat, animals cannot answer back to their self-proclaimed saviours. Certainly, nature is red in tooth and claw, and the "cruelty" inflicted on animals by other animals dwarves the alleged cruelty of the pharmaceutical industry. What shall be done about animals that must eat other animals to survive? What about animals genetically predisposed to compete over territory? Animals do not obey laws, or even understand the concept of a law other than instinct. Should cute, furry animals enjoy better protection than cockroaches and poisonous serpents? The utilitarian concept of minimizing pain, maximizing pleasure fails when arbitrary, subjective judgements are made about the capacity for each, and the credo "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" fails when the only economic value offered by prey to a predator is to be eaten, and the need of a predator is to kill or fight. It is therefore absurd to consider animals as morally equal to humans, and that they should enjoy equal human rights.

In conclusion, protesting against a corporation is futile when that corporation is coerced into a particular behavior by a government, and the actions of the animal rights movement fail to display consistency with their professed motives, given this fact. Animal suffering, while regrettable, is infintely preferable to human suffering.

Actually that's like saying because you are complicit with a crime, you are absolved of it. Corporations are not forced to make money at gunpoint, nor do they HAVE to develop, market, and then sell drugs. The people involved have the freedom to go elsewhere, and find another profession to earn their cash that doesn't involve the infliction of needless pain and suffering on animals. And it *is* needless.

The specious example of the foetuses is a good example in itself of what I speak about. Foetuses vary enormously across species in their response to a particular drug. That's why we don't for example use the same pregnancy drugs on different species of animals that are looked after by vets. The reason for this is quite simple.

Different species have different body chemistries.

While they may in broad terms both drop dead from a particular poison, it's difficult to detect more subtle effects because quite simply a rat's foetus's biochemistry engine isn't nearly as sophisticated as ours. Foetuses are also highly sensitive to these drugs, and it is difficult to know that a drug given to a rat foetus which seems fine on the surface won't be altered in some subtle way that won't show up until the development cycle is complete. For example, there would never have been a drug test on animals for Downs syndrome.

This doesn't absolve us of our moral responsibility to protect our children, but it does force us to use our conscience. Look, companies are the economic powerhouses of our society. They shouldn't be generating corpses to heat the fires of capitalism and warm up their profit figures, no one should! I'm all for a good economy, but it would be nice to have a government that didn't try to cut corners morally to achieve safety for it's citizens.

In short, stick em on a list. Name and shame them, and make those responsible sweat until it's too much for them.

I agree that animal testing of cosmetics is uneccessary, and some medical testing, most notably that lunatic in the 1980s who performed head transplants on live macaques, and a lot of research on primates in general, is ethically very shady. However, use of lab mice, including GM "knockout" mice in medical research is a field where the benefits can be reasonably stated to outweigh the costs. Much of the research being done on such animals is aiming to produce more specific drugs using natural cell mechanisms, avoiding the toxicity found in chemotherapy and other such delightful current medical treatments.

I must now come forward and state that I currently work in a laboratory that uses rats in a lot of our experiments. During my time there so far, every scientist and animal house worker I have met or worked with has loved animals, cared deeply about their welfare and treated them with the kindness and affection that one would show to a pet. It's not a den of sadists or cold, indifferent psychopaths of the type so frequently portrayed by animal rights campaigners. In addition, the research they are working on is motivated by scientific curiosity but also often plain and simple idealism to improve medical treatment, and save or improve people's lives. They're not all drones of pharmaceutical companies, driven to add new drugs to the market to fuel the fires of capitalism and enhance shareholder value. Every one I have ever met is a compassionate human being who wants to create things to solve problems and help others, and this shouldn't be forgotten in loud proclamations of the evils and cruelties of Western capitalist science.

Anyway, the following appeared in Nature in May 2001. A number of medical research labs using mice were facing trouble with banking. HSBC refused to handle shares of Huntington Life Sciences, and refused to confirm it would stand by customers should the bank be targetted by animal rights activists as a consequence. Indignation in the medical research community ensued, with the patients' group 'The Seriously Ill for Medical Research' sending the following cards to prominent activists. Interesting statement that made a lot of people very unhappy, as often happens when you treat their position with perfect and unsentimental logic.




I wish to see all animal research abolished and agree to live without treatments developed using animal reseach and testing.

Compliments of the Seriously ill for medical reseach.


To honour my belief that animal research sould be abolished, I hereby pledge that:

Incidentally, Jaez, I'm not sure where the line about rat biochemistry being "less sophisticated" than ours came from. It may be different, sure, but just because something is smaller and hairier than us does not mean its biology is less complex. How do you judge the level of "sophistication" of biochemistry, anyway? Having more and more steps and pathways? Having less, and still being able to run an organism? Amoebae far more genetic information than humans. Are they more sophisticated for their vast reams of genetic data, or less, because of their relative incompetence at editing, condensing and encrypting it?

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