Oxford University is building a new facility to replace and regroup all its laboratories working with animals. In July 2004, after a campaign of protest from animal rights group, works stopped. They are now resumed (BBC story).
I am working with animals in my laboratory and, if I can understand some arguments from the animal rights activists, I can’t understand why they are going that far. A big part of the “modern comfort” that Europeans and North American are used to comes from and needs animal experimentation. For example, if we take any drug, it has to be tested on animal first before coming to the market. Of course, you can use in vitro cells but the complex behaviour of an animal (including the human) won’t be there. Animals are a collection of cells; but these cells are not the same in the arm or in the brain: they are specialised. How can you be sure that a general in vitro cell will react in the same way as an animal (including the human)? If we completely abolish animal testing, will you still go in court if a drug have side effects (that would have been spotted if tested first on animals) on you?
Now, I do not accept that one do anything with experimental animals. I am handling my rodents from the first day in the animal housing facility to the last one. I cannot tolerate any harm. I am trying my best to reduce the number of animals needed in my experiments. I also try my best to reduce pain and stress while doing these experiments. The amount of administrative papers is huge. The university ethical committee includes members from the “outside world” (even from animal rights groups, I think). The quality of external control is very high and strict. I think it’s the same (or even better) in Oxford University. So please let controlled scientists do their job!