Blimey Britain leads Europe in something! Don’t start waving the flags yet though, it’s the number of animal experiments. Peter Tatchell’s Comment is Free points out that animal experiments are at an ll-time high.
The Home Office website provides some details here.
Mice, rats and other rodents were used in the majority of procedures; eighty-three percent of the total. Most of the remaining procedures used fish (9%), and birds (4%).
Dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates, afforded special protection by the Act, were collectively used in less than one percent of all procedures.
The number of procedures using non-human primates was 4,200 down by 450 (10%) from 2005, mainly due to a decrease in old-world primates. The number of animals used was 3,108.
Genetically modified animals were used in 1.04 million regulated procedures representing thirty-four percent of all procedures for 2006, compared with thirty-three percent in 2005 and eight percent in 1995. The vast majority (95%) of these procedures used rodents, most of the remainder were fish and amphibians.
Around thirty-eight percent of all procedures used some form of anaesthesia to alleviate the severity of the interventions. For many of the remaining procedures the use of anaesthesia would have potentially increased the adverse effects of the procedure.
Apparently these procedures are now increasing and will increase further with ever greater demand for GM beings.
One of the people who framed the animal experimentation legislation has very severe doubts about its operation.
Prof Balls said he was dismayed that progress in science had not produced more alternatives to using animals in research. “As a scientist I’m entitled to believe in modern technology to deal with these problems, but I’m disappointed that more effort hasn’t been put into bringing the numbers down,” he said
There are some issues that leap out as you read the bald statistics, such as,
- if this is just ‘science’, how it is it that the cute pet factor seems to influence the choice of animals? Shouldn’t it be the similarity to human biology that determines their sacrificial value?
- Is a mouse genetically modified to have disease x really very much like a human being who has developed that disease?
- What can fish and amphibian experiments tell us about human biology? They might indicate levels of river toxicity.
- 72% were conducted without anaesthetic, then….
I’m far from absolutist on this. If the sacrifice of some poor mammal can spare great human suffering, then I’d have to go for saving my own species.
All the same, it’s well nigh impossible to skim through a few issues of any pop science magazine without finding large numbers of experiments that are so morally dubious and seemingly pointless that you wonder what ethics committees are for.
The naive observer, i.e. me, would assume that you couldn’t torture animals unless human life hung in the balance and there was literally no alternative way to get the information. These should surely be the mininum requirements.
There has just been a ruling on a judicial review sought by the British Unnion for the Abolition of Vivisection . A High Court judge ruled that the government acted unlawfully in allowing some experiments on primates. Astonishingly, cutting the top of a primate’s head to induce a stroke was seen by the government as causing ‘moderate’, rather than ‘severe’, suffering. The mind boggles at a definition of “severe”.
In any case, I didn’t realise there was a problem with strokes in people who have had the tops of their heads cut off. Wow. that must affect approximately, erm, 0% of the population.