The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973

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Letters

Experiments on animals

Sir, We, the undersigned, wish to express our grave misgivings about the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Bill now before the House of Commons. We wonder whether it is a question of history repeating itself.

In March, 1876, Cardinal Manning, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Earl of Shaftsbury and a number of other gentlemen formed a deputation to the Home Office urging the Government to introduce a Bill to restrict experiments on living animals. Later the bishops of Winchester, Gloucester and Bristol took an active part in the movement.

Within six months a Bill was introduced and became law in August of that year. Subsequently Cardinal Manning and many of the others publicly expressed great dissatisfaction and even regret that the Bill had become law:

I believe, not only has that legislation been ineffectual, but that we have been entirely hoodwinked and the law has not been carried into effect . . . I only wish that we had the power legally to prohibit altogether the practice of vivisection (Cardinal Manning, 1881)

We applaud the Government's honouring of its 1979 election promise to update the legislation in this field, but we believe the Bill in its present form is seriously inadequate. In particular, it fails to deal adequately with inflicting serious pain on animals. It continues to allow experiments for trivial purposes, such as non-medical cosmetics.

It increases the secrecy which has too often surrounded the subject in the past by a clause which threatens even imprisonment to those who reveal confidential information about animal experiments. It does not give sufficient power to the new, advisory committee and does not provide for a sufficient number of inspectors to supervise the large number of licensed establishments.

There is a strong swell of public opinion about experimentation on live animals and we believe that human beings have grave duties towards their fellow creatures, unable to speak for themselves. As stewards of creation, we feel a moral duty to concern ourselves in this matter and we express a strong hope that the Bill at present before Parliament will be suitably amended.

Until the day comes when experiments on live animals are abandoned we believe it to be our duty to avoid unnecessary duplication, to seek alternative procedures, and to abolish or reduce to a minimum the distress and pain inflicted on animals by scientific experiments.

Yours etc.

Agnellus Andrew, (President, Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare)
Alan C. Clark,
Derek Bradwell,
John Sarum,
Soper,
Lionel Blue

Letter published in The Times dated February 22, 1986.

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