A reader sends along news that a minister at the UK’s Home Office has made it his goal to completely eliminate animal testing in the country. Norman Baker has been a longtime activist on the issue of animal rights, and is now in a position to do something about it.
Or is he? Reading the article, it seems to me to be one of these “Form a commission to study the proposals for the plan” things. The current proposal is to increase the publicly available details about what animals are being used for:
In a statement, Mr Baker said: “The coalition government is committed to enhancing openness and transparency about the use of animals in scientific research to improve public understanding of this work. It is also a personal priority of mine.
“The consultation on Section 24 of the Animals in Science Act has now concluded and we are currently analysing responses in preparation for pursuing potential legislative change.”
So I don’t see a ban on animal experimentation in the UK any time soon – which would demolish what’s left of the pharma industry there, along with great swaths of the academic biological research world as well. I am not in favor of animal suffering, and would gladly punch anyone who is. But given the state of our knowledge, there really is no alternative in many cases. We shouldn’t be doing frivolous experiments, and we should all be mindful of alternatives. But the anti-testing people should realize how few good alternatives there really are.
I’ve found, by the way, that many activists are convinced that such alternatives are a lot more useful than they really are. When I’ve had a chance to press them for details, things get hazy very quickly. Phrases like “cell cultures” and “computer models” get thrown around, but how these can substitute for whole-animal disease models and toxicology – that turns out to be not so clear.