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The supremacy of humans over animals


Animal experimentation
Avrion Mitchison Scientist
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I am not sure that public opinion has changed very much. I think vivisection has been a question that the educated public have wondered about and the less educated public has developed strong feelings about, really for a very long time, I think right over the last century. The big change as I see it in the last few years, is that animal experimentation is now much more tightly regulated than it used to be and that has good aspects and bad aspects. The good aspects obviously are that certain kinds of experimentation, certain examples of experimentation are, we hope, more or less excluded now. The rabbit which recovers from its anaesthetic in the middle of the operation as the operation proceeds, I hope that that is no longer there, and I actually believe that it isn't there, but I don't believe that that ever really was a very big problem in the past. I think some of the regulation is quite misplaced. To take one example, I think it's hard to- for me to imagine any reasonable procedure as they say, form of injection or treatment of a mouse which is- makes the mouse more miserable, and keeping a mouse by itself in a cage- mice are colonial animals and they- they like to live in groups, and I think the- some of the regulation which even limits the number of animals which could be kept together is, again, quite misplaced. Mice, if you look at mice in a transparent cage, you have four mice, they don't sit in the four corners they sit in one corner, in tactile relationship with one another and there is every reason for thinking that's what they like. So I am afraid that much of the regulation- not much of the regulation, but an alarming slice of the regulation- is misconceived. I can understand why it has been put in place, it has been put in place in response to changing public opinion.
Now I ought to add that, I must add that the agitators in the Animal Liberation Movement are a real pain and they are a real pain not because, not so much because of the threat that they pose to- from the point of view of society they are a threat not so much because they make hell of the lives of some individual scientists or because they make safety testing as carried out in the Huntingdon Laboratories very difficult and really force it to go- sometimes to move abroad to less regulated climates where the desirable regulation is not implemented so I think there are some very bad things there; but it is much more to do with cruelty to their fellow human beings. In my opinion, those who demand animal liberation should- should not only not take modern medicine themselves, they should not benefit from modern medicine themselves, but they should be persuading their fathers and mothers and uncles and aunts to die early and gracefully rather than benefit from medicine.

Avrion Mitchison, the British zoologist, is currently Professor Emeritus at University College London and is best known for his work demonstrating the role of lymphocytes in tumour rejection and for the separate and cooperative roles of T- and B-lymphocytes in this and other processes.

Listeners: Martin Raff

Martin Raff is a Canadian-born neurologist and research biologist who has made important contributions to immunology and cell development. He has a special interest in apoptosis, the phenomenon of cell death.



Listen to Martin Raff at Web of Stories



Duration: 4 minutes, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: June 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010