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


Man's Best Friend

By Peter H. Mundy

From the Methodist Recorder (December 2, 1982)

'Please be kind to the cat' may initially arouse a smile, and yet our attitude to the animal kingdom should be the concern of all thinking Christians.

In 1980, the Methodist Conference adopted a revised Statement on the Treatment of Animals which recognised the complexity of the issues involved, and yet that very complexity should not provide an excuse for avoiding the careful consideration of what is admittedly a teasing problem.

The companionship of domestic animals in the home, the close relationship of shepherd and sheep dog, the dependence of the blind upon their guide dogs, all present an idyllic picture of care and compassion, but unhappily there is a more sombre side to the story.

The hunting of animals for so-called "sport" (which brings to mind the sight of a terrified stag which I observed at a hunt in the early days of my ministry), the slaughter and export of Dartmoor ponies both for human consumption and pet food, intensive factory farming with the consequent deprivation of liberty for calves, pigs and chickens, these alone should give rise to much heart-searching, while the big question 'Should living creatures be used for scientific research?' is one which continues to exercise the minds of ordinary men and women throughout the world and is not just the province of scientists and medical researchers.

Can we lay claim to be a humane society when we torture and kill creatures to test shampoos and deodorants? The dreaded DRAIZE test, in which an irritant is introduced into a rabbit's eye with the resultant inflammation, has been the target of an intensive campaign in the United States, while the LD50 acute oral toxicity test used for chemical or pharmaceutical substances has in the last twelve months been the subject of Parliamentary debate.

An official report to the Home Office in 1979 by the advisory committee on the administration of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876, categorically states 'LD50s must cause appreciable pain to the animals subjected to them.' Those with experience in this field testify that the tests do cause agonising pain,convulsions, bleeding, diarrhoea and eventually lingering death.

While there are prescribed legal requirements for the testing of new drugs and the monitoring of medicines, it has not been conclusively proved that the only satisfactory method open to researchers is by the use of animals. In 1981, 4.3 million experiments on animals were carried out in Britain of which only 2.4 million were for the testing of medicines.

Between the opposing lobbies - the pro-vivisection and the anti-vivisection groups, there is a middle group  FRAME (Fund for Replacement of Animals in Medical Experiments), and research projects which do not employ the use of animals are funded by such organisations as the Humane Research Trust and Air Chief Marshall Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research.

Are we a caring nation? Apart from the slaughter of billions of animals for food, and the hunting of foxes, hares, stags and otters for "pleasure," the 1981 return of the RSPCA reveals that it killed 180,000 cats and dogs, most of which were healthy, but which had been abandoned.

Reproduced with thanks.

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