Conspiracy of confusion

April 18, 1997

Jacky Turner's piece "The Vivisection Void" (THES, April 4) seemed confused. Is she arguing for more public debate about the morality of animal experimentation, or simply for more accurate reporting of the use of animals in scientific papers?

Her case seems to be that, by not revealing all the minutiae of their experimental procedures, medical researchers are part of a conspiracy of silence that is obscuring public awareness. However, her first paragraph reveals much about the way the antivivisectionist campaigner tries to do precisely that: "Excuse me madam, are you against animal cruelty?" "Yes, of course."

"Good, sign here please, it's a petition to ban animal experiments."

This kind of simplistic argument does great harm to rational debate. This is precisely what the antivivisectionist wants. These people are not remotely interested in reasoned discussion because they have no negotiating position: their only acceptable outcome is a complete ban on the use of animals in medical research.

Fortunately, most of the public are more sensible than this when faced with a more focused question, such as: Do you think that conducting animal experiments for medical research is morally acceptable? Something like 80 per cent of people support this, subject to the obvious considerations of humaneness, availability of replacements, and animal welfare.

SIMON BROPHY Director, Biomedical Research Education Trust

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