Friday, February 24, 2006

Pro-testing; Or, I'm Quite Happy To Be Alive

Tomorrow I shall set out on my first protest march. I'm not normally one for activism of this sort; too often I'm just too damn lazy and much prefer sitting at my computer screen hammering away at my blog to actually doing something productive.

Yet Oxford over the past few months has been infiltrated by outsiders. Outsiders who seem to enjoy nothing more than standing outside in the cold shouting "Stop the Oxford Animal Lab!" ad nauseam. If Christopher Martin-Jenkins finds the chanting of "Barmy Army" by England cricket supporters a great example of tedium, he should come and visit the site of the proposed animal research lab. He'd soon change his mind.

Of course, I don't deny the right of people to protest against things they don't agree with (although I do object to their harrassment of employees of the University in the Science Area - and quite why the police let them get away with it is beyond me). I do, however, object vehemently to their views on animal testing. You can call me self-interested if you like, but the fact is that without animal testing, the chances are that I wouldn't be typing this today.

Regular readers of the blog will know that I am diabetic. It's a pain in the ass, but thankfully it's manageable. That's due to the fact that insulin was discovered; it was discovered through experiments in observing the digestive system of dogs. As far as the medical manufacture of insulin is concerned, without animals it would not have been possible for many years.

Diabetics now may inject themselves with "human" insulin (created through a bacterial process), yet for many years it was treated insulin taken from animals that was crucial in the treatment of diabetics. Indeed, it's less than ten years since animal insulin went out of mass production.

I have difficulty giving the time of day to any argument whose result would mean that I wasn't actually around to have the discussion. The fact is that research on animals saves lives, and it can save lives in absolutely gargantuan numbers (the same reason is why I have no problem with stem-cell research). Britain has tight laws on animal testing; this isn't testing for cosmetics or anything like this. Oxford, as a university, is trying to advance the science of medicine and in so doing improve the quality of life of millions of people today and in the future.

That's something a responsible organisation should be doing. That's why I will be out on the streets showing my support tomorrow. I hope some of you will be there to join me.