Letters - Animal rights and wrongs

Ed Owen's claim ("The dangers of cuddly extremism", 12 September) that criticism of animal experimentation legitimises "militant activity" is both offensive and hypocritical. Perhaps his close relationship with Jack Straw, who was responsible for animal research policy as home secretary from 1997 to 2001, may explain his argument.

One of the clearest examples of Home Office misconduct over animal research regulations involved pig-to-primate organ transplant research conducted by Imutran Ltd between 1995 and 2000. Uncaged won a two-and-a-half-year legal battle with Imutran and Novartis, its parent company, to publish documents describing these experiments. Many of the primates were allowed to deteriorate until they were "found dead" or "in a collapsed state".

When Uncaged first called for an investigation, Straw reneged on a commitment to parliament to involve an independent element, and set up an entirely internal inquiry despite evidence of collusion between Home Office inspectors and researchers. The issue is currently the subject of two major investigations by the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Dan Lyons
Director, Uncaged Campaigns

If Ed Owen had spoken to us, or even looked at our website, he would have realised that we avoid using emotive language, preferring to provide the facts on animal testing. He then argues that "every one of us has reason to thank animal research". Medicines have indeed been developed through the use of animals, yet this does not mean that safe and effective medicines could not have been developed using alternative means.

For decades, experimental allergic encephalitis (EAE) mice have been used as a model in multiple sclerosis research, as there are superficial similarities between the two conditions. Today, many scientists are saying that progress in developing a cure for multiple sclerosis has been delayed as a direct result of reliance on EAE models. And this is only one example - there are many others.

Adolfo Sansolini
Chief executive, BUAV
London N7

There can clearly be no justification for the violence of the few animal rights extremists, and I would not necessarily agree with some of the arguments of the law-abiding animal rights groups. However, large numbers of scientists oppose vivisection purely on the grounds of human welfare. If animal research is really essential to help humans, why are its supporters so afraid to have an open evaluation and rational debate? Let's hear some real scientific evidence, not just assertions that it is so.

Julia Oakley
Romsey, Hampshire

This article first appeared in the 26 September 2005 issue of the New Statesman, Vote Brown: get Blair!