Ethics

Indy Spanks The Monkey

No, this is not another story about Johann Hari.

I am against unnecessary animal testing. Well, it’s easy to be against ‘unnecessary’ anything, but one has a duty, I think, to be strongly so if whatever it is causes pain, distress or death for no reason: be sure what you mete is not murder.

However, and article appearing in The Independent this morning made me quite cross. Naturally, since The Independent is increasingly the Daily Mail for people who recycle, I don’t actually buy it. I read this online, so here’s the link. The story, obviously, is about animal testing. Here’s the headline:

“Nearly one in 10 monkey tests has no benefit”

What makes this headline so annoying is that it could just as easily – and more honestly – have been written as

“Over 90% of monkey tests essential”

But then what do you expect from a tabloid masquerading as a respectable broadsheet?

To prop up their distorting and alarmist story (in which they refer to this fewer than 1 in 10 as a “substantial proportion”), the short article ends with a quote and the final – and hysterical – word given to an anti-vivisection campaigner.

“This report is a chilling insight into primate research in the UK. It is also a shocking admission of failure,” they quote Michelle Thew, chief executive of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection as saying while calling for a complete ban.

Really??

So, fewer than 10% of experiments are not considered valuable – in other words more than 9 out of 10 are – and this is “failure” and proof that this research must be banned?

What’s worse is that the article is written by Steve Connor, The Independent’s Science Editor, who does not even ask a basic question: were those experiments making up the small proportion of non-essential or unnecessary cases cruel or harmful to the animals in question?

For all we know, these might have been non-medical experiments of the “let’s give these monkey’s a beach ball to play with and see if the make up a game” variety. Perhaps some were given typewriters to see if any inadvertently produced copy that could pass as an editorial in The Independent. We just don’t know because for all his wisdom, Steve Connor didn’t think to ask before chasing down Ms Thew to scream for a ban.

I would be very surprised too if any of these non-essential experiments were authorised if they appeared to be of value to sadists alone.

Throughout the article there is an on-going bait-and-switch between “scientific enquiry” and “medical benefit”, as if it is assumed that a practical medical benefit is the only valid reason for scientists and researchers working with monkeys – regardless of whether the animals are harmed.

It s pretty shocking that this is the way a matter of importance both to science and public health is discussed so crudely in a broadsheet newspaper and that the final word is given to a shrill activist whose agenda is a total ban regardless of the facts or figures before us.

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