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The ethics of animal testing: cruelty is neither right nor necessary

20 December 2013


From the Revd Professor Martin Henig
Sir, - I was pleased to see that Paul Vallely used his column (Comment, 13 December) to bring before your readership breaches of "procedures" in a university animal-testing laboratory which amount to quite horrifying acts of cruelty. As Christians, we must be concerned about this.

Nevertheless, we should also ask whether we should ever misuse animals, God's creation, in this way. Whether 60 per cent or 90 per cent of the population is "happy" for such experiments to take place is irrelevant. Numbers can never provide "moral underpinning" for a wrong action. The instrumentalist argument just will not do: remember the High Priest, Caiaphas, who counselled "that it was expedient that one man should die for the people" (John 18.14).

If we lived not in 20th-century Britain but in first-century Palestine, I wonder what proportion of our population would go along with Caiaphas? Cruel and unjust means can never be justified in the hope of achieving desirable ends.

As so many churchmen (and others) insisted back in the 19th century, vivisection is simply wrong and unchristian.

Wolfson College
Oxford OX2 6UD

From A. Wills
Sir, - Further to your article by Paul Vallely, "Need for vigilance on animal tests", there are concerns about the testing of medical drugs on animals, as these can give unreliable results, because other species react differently from humans to many substances.

The Safer Medicines Campaign calls for evaluation of the testing of medical drugs, as many medical drugs have had to be withdrawn because of their dangerous side-effects on patients. Social Audit reported that 10,000 UK hospital beds a year are occupied by people damaged by prescribed medical drugs.

Many breakthroughs were delayed because animal tests gave misleading results. Other testing methods are available now: computer imaging, using discarded human tissue after surgical operations, and stem-cell tissue from discarded umbilical cords after birth.

I do not think that it is ethical to test harsh chemical cleaning products, such as bleach, on animals, or to test war weapons on innocent, sensitive creatures who feel pain and fear. Often they are not anaethetised, because researchers want to observe the animals' reactions.

Imagine how we would feel if a more powerful species than humans came along and experimented on us.

67 Dulverton Road
Middlesex HA4 9AF

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