- George Bernard Shaw said, 'If we attempt to contravert a vivisectionist by showing that the experiment that he has performed has not led to any useful result, you imply that if it led to a useful result, you would consider his experiment justified. Now I'm not prepared to concede that position.' I would agree to that - I know that so much terror and pain can never be warranted. But the vivisection industry is very powerful and needs to be challenged on its own ground.
- I've never been inside an animal laboratory, but I remember the first time I saw some film footage taken inside one. After a few seconds of watching those fleeting visions of institutionalized hell on earth, I heard myself screaming. I knew for certain that what I was watching was wrong, could never be justified, but justify it people did. And what could I, a lay person, answer to their argument that the pain and anguish of all these animals has alleviated the pain and anguish of equal2 amounts of human beings? That argument has worked so well over the last hundred years that the vivisection industry has been allowed to grow, virtually unabated, into the massive, though hidden, institution it is today. That argument with its 'rational' justifications, has been hard to challenge with convictions that were rooted in an 'emotional' response to suffering. Many people see the world we humans inhabit as a purely human world - a world in which other species incorporated in it, are intrinsically of lesser value3 than human beings. Lacking the information to argue on their terms I have been thrown back on the simple conviction that there can be no more moral justification for slowly slicing4 up millions of laboratory animals than there can be for slicing up one domestic puppy. Antivivisectionists agree; vivisectionists do not.
- Finally, with the arrival of Dr Sharpe's wonderful book, I am armed with evidence to argue what I have always suspected - that it is not to animal experiments we owe the major medical discoveries that have so profoundly changed our lives. With detailed documentary and historical evidence (somehow Dr Sharpe manages to avoid ever being boring) the author carefully unravels the screen of myth and propaganda built around the vivisection establishment, at the heart of which lies the assumption that Animal Research is the Key Weapon in the Fight Against Disease. He not only exposes the falsehood of this, showing convincingly that it is clinical investigation together with intelligent application of observation that have provided most of the really important medical discoveries, but he makes abundantly clear how dangerous animal tests can be to humans. The disasters of Opren, Eraldin, or indeed something as simple as the tragically addictive effects of Valium on human beings, are sad examples of the ineffectiveness of animal testing. There are a great deal more.
- Millions of animals die in anguish for reasons even less justified than the marketing of new drugs. They are sacrificed in tests on behalf of competing brands5 of floor cleaner or shampoo. They are deliberately put through agony by men studying aggression. They are starved to monitor the effects of hunger on sexual appetite. Huge resources are poured into these obscene studies, while outside in the real world more people are starving than ever before and civil violence is frighteningly on the increase.
- Throughout history there has been dissent within the scientific community itself - it being as representative a community as any other - but more often than not those protestors lose their positions, as we read happened to Donald Barnes when he protested the futility of many of the gruesome experiments being carried out on animals in military laboratories. No doubt Dr Sharpe will also be attacked. I believe he will also be widely praised. There is so much in his book to make you think, reassess; it opens so many shut doors, that I would urge people of all spheres and interests to read it. At each turn it touches on something that must deeply affect someone. Mercifully, a book has been written from a scientific, rational point of view that might possibly serve to alleviate the mass of terrible and pointless suffering endured daily by laboratory animals.
Footnote 2: This is sloppy. The argument isn’t about numbers.
- Yes – it’s Julie Christie the actress – see Wikipedia: Julie Christie.
- The problem with celebrity endorsement is that their arguments are weak, though this effort isn’t too bad.
Footnote 4: This isn’t really what happens.
- You could accept this – because it is true – but still be an anti-vivisectionist (as I am, in almost all cases).
- Doubtful cases are those of surgery. You couldn’t practice heart transplants on human beings.
Footnote 5: I agree – and especially where the answer is already know, and the “experiment” required to tick the “safety” box.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)