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

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'Methodist Recorder' debate (1985-86) Letters

Experiments on animals

Your Comment of November 14 on the Queen's Speech at the beginning of a new Session of Parliament states: 'One long overdue piece of legislation should be welcomed, the Bill to impose stricter controls on laboratory experiments on animals'.

While I welcome the Government's intention to replace the antiquated Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, I find its proposals to be totally inadequate and they do not accord with the statement on the treatment of animals adopted by the Methodist Conference of 1980. Laboratory animals will continue to be poisoned to death, burnt, blinded and scolded, and exposed to radiation; and experiments to test cosmetics, weedkillers, household products and tobacco will continue unabated.

The major responsible animal welfare societies are continuing to campaign both inside and outside Parliament to prevent the Government's retrograde proposals from becoming law and are asking for the following minimum requirements to be included in legislation replacing the 1876 Act:

A ban on cosmetic, tobacco and alcohol experiments.

A ban on the Draize eye irritancy test (in which an irritant is introduced into a rabbit's eye with the resultant inflammation).

A ban on the LD50 poisoning test.

A ban on behavioural/psychological experiments.

A ban on warfare experiments.

The re-construction of the Home Secretary's advisory committee on animal experimentation, to exclude those who have a vested interest in the continuation of animal experiments.

It is estimated that nearly 70,000 animals will die in British laboratories over a period of seven days, and in 1983 alone, 15,620 experiments involving the Draize test were carried out. It has been condemned on scientific grounds because rabbits' eyes are different structurally and physiologically from the human eyes. An early day motion calling for its abolition was tabled in the House of Commons on May 15 last by Mr Mike Hancock.

A Home Office report on the LD50 poisoning test categorically states that 'it must cause appreciable pain to the animals subjected to it'.

There are 508 premises now registered to perform experiments on living animals in Great Britain, over 20,000 licensees and more than 3 and a half million experiments annually. To monitor these the Home Office employs just 15 inspectors and animals are allowed to suffer pain during experiments.

Intrinsically bound up with animal welfare is the multi-national industry which has sprung up to supply the needs of the vivisection laboratories and it has been estimated that the cost of purchasing animals experimented upon in the United Kingdom exceeds 20 million per year. In considering Parliamentary action on animal welfare it is disturbing to discover the number of MPs who are directors or consultants of companies involved in the use of animals.

As a former hospital chaplain I cannot disregard the need for continual medical research and I am well aware that there are prescribed legal requirements for the testing of new drugs and the monitoring of medicines, but it has NOT been conclusively proved that the only satisfactory method open to researchers is by the use of animals.

Out of the millions of experiments carried out on animals, the figures for 1981 indicate that only just over half were for the testing of medicines.

'Reverence for life' requires Christians to be vigilant in our care for all God's creatures. MPs are not insensitive to their postbags and all of us can alert them to the need for radical changes in the proposed legislation.

One practical point: Many cosmetics and hair shampoos have been produced and tested without cruelty to animals. Their purchase is a small step in demonstrating our concern.

Rev Peter H Mundy
(12/12/85)

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