Animal experimentation: Crueler than we thought
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) has exposed the appalling plight of animals in medical research through an undercover investigation at Imperial College London.
The BUAV must have known the incensed backlash this would whip up. Whenever the animal cruelty involved in medical research is exposed the debate is all about delivering health advancement. Researchers come over all indignant and highly defensive, adamant that this cruelty is saving lives, preventing fatal diseases and pushing the frontiers of medicine beyond the imaginable.
Yes, animal research is evil, but it’s a necessary evil they insist. The video released by BUAV comes with a warning of graphic imagery. For even the very least faint-hearted, it is almost impossible to watch without wincing.
But animal experimentation is inherently cruel, inflicting immense suffering, pain and distress upon millions of young, healthy and even pregnant and lactating animals. “But it’s given us the polio vaccine, hasn’t it?” we plead with ourselves earnestly. And we all know a diabetic and asthmatic sufferer, don’t we, whose lives have been transformed thanks to the treatments developed on animals which purportedly we wouldn’t otherwise have. Understandably, we do the utmost to convince ourselves that the doctrines meted out by the researchers are thoroughly justified; at least it makes watching videos like these a little easier.
If the cruel reality of animal research is not spine chilling enough, this evidence shows that animal research is even crueler than we had imagined. Incompetence, bad practice, neglect and inadequacies run amok in this piece of footage. Live animals writhe in agony without pain relief; researchers lack understanding of their responsibilities while cavalierly dissecting away as limbs twitch and creatures frantically struggle in futile attempts to dodge death by guillotine. And a blaring radio drowns out their screams.
Imperial College have announced an independent investigation into these poor practices to be led by Professor Steve Brown, director of the Medical Research Council’s mammalian genetics unit. However, the BUAV have claimed such an inquiry to be a “whitewash”: “Not only is Professor Brown a well-known and strong supporter of animal research, heading the Medical Research Council unit which manipulates mice to predispose them to develop all manner of diseases, but the MRC actually funds animal research at the Imperial College.
A few months ago, as she habitually does every now and then as suits, Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone trotted out the official venerable mantra: “This government expects and requires the highest standards in animal research in the UK.”. And as for Imperial College London, ranked the eighth leading university in the world, its website boasts it provides “world class research… in science and medicine”. Professor Margaret Dallman, Principal of the Faculty of Natural Sciences contends, “Thanks to public scrutiny, the UK has some of the highest welfare standards in animal research in the world.”
And yet, this institution operates within a sector that oversees some of the tightest secrecy levels and imposes a blanket ban on the disclosure of any information. Imperial is just the same as all other public research institutions that deny exactly that: public scrutiny and open scientific debate.
On this occasion when public access was achieved, albeit without their blessing, maintaining those highest standards has failed spectacularly. It seems that every time there is an inkling of openness into what goes on behind the closed doors of research institutions, the cruel truth and alleged unscientific nature of what is practiced emerges.
What has been indisputably revealed here is animal cruelty of the most unimaginably horrific kind. All the while medical research continues to be conducted under the ersatz auspices of the UK’s acclaimed highest standards of animal welfare the public is being duped.
But animal cruelty is not necessarily good science. Whether there is a relationship between world class research and the gruesome methods employed depends entirely on the regulatory framework in which it operates. It makes you wonder when experiments are flatly refused on ethical grounds in other EU states but are welcomed with open arms here by our research institutions..
However, if, as we are led to believe, the UK upholds the highest welfare standards in animal research, then we would at least expect science to deliver in conformity with statutory regulations and any degree of public transparency should allow us to see this for ourselves. Yet researchers at public institutions like the Imperial continue to fight so fervently to conceal what goes on inside.
The public has been kept in the dark for far too long and pledges of openness and scrutiny amount to nothing less than a sham. You would think the simplest way to remedy this outrageous scandal and regain public trust would be to remove the secrecy clause on animal research and ensure true transparency and accountability here after. This is what the public deserves and this is what our Government keeps promising.
Science demands a level of openness. Animal cruelty requires accountability too. As you next reach for the tablets or inhale the puffer ask yourself why an industry that claims it wants to save our lives and has nothing to hide demands a level of secrecy greater than any other.Tagged in: animal testing, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, BUAV, Imperial College
Recent Posts on Notebook
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter