Animals slow progress

December 24, 2004

Chris Patten's article "Fear and secrecy pose a threat to our future", (November 26) reveals, perhaps surprisingly, that he agrees with some of the ideals of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. But he goes off track when discussing their implementation.

We agree, for example, that scientists need to be careful about how they put the case for scientific research and to be transparent about how they work or risk further alienating public sympathy.

And we agree that undesirable tactics are adopted "by a violent few". We would go further to say that those tactics undermine the messages, damage the reputation of and, ultimately, impede the progress of the animal rights movement.

"Freedom of speech and freedom of association are principles that must be defended" is also a statement we are in full agreement with. It is for this reason that we are very concerned about recent injunctions that significantly restrict the right of lawful protest against animal experiments.

And we agree that "it would be devastating news for many who suffer from disease" if research to control symptoms of Parkinson's disease, vaccines for HIV and malaria, tuberculosis and childhood meningitis were "halted".

That is one of the reasons that led us to oppose all animal experiments, because they are an obstacle to the development of more scientific and reliable methods that could really help to save lives, beyond any propagandistic slogan.

We are strongly in favour of medical progress and are not "enemies of science", as Patten puts it; on the contrary, we feel that animal research is slowing down progress, as it has been proven time and again that animals don't make good subjects for the study of human diseases.

Finally, "pushing back the boundaries of knowledge is" indeed, "a hallmark of a free and civilised society". But, in such a civilised society, should this be at the expense of millions of animal lives?

Adolfo Sansolini
Chief executive
British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

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