PAMELA Treadwell makes some interesting claims in her letter (ViewPoints, September 25).

Among them, that animals’ bodies are different from our own (in fact they share most of our genes), do not react to chemicals in the same way (more often than not they react in exactly the same way) and that animal research is unethical (there is nothing unethical about studying cancer).

Animal research is a small but important part of wider research efforts, which already include all of the complimentary methods mentioned, such as in vitro tests, computer modelling etc.

Unfortunately, no matter how powerful your computer, you cannot model what you do not yet understand.

Not to mention that it is illegal to use an animal in research if there is an alternative. I am glad that Ms Treadwell mentioned the breeding of genetically modified animals (which are almost all mice) since it has made up so much of modern animal research since the mapping of the human genome.

These experiments are largely done to discover what our 30,000 genes do, which in most cases is nothing and no suffering occurs.

In fact, overall, only two per cent of experiments lead to ‘substantial’ suffering and most, like taking a blood sample, are so mild they do not need anaesthetic.

However the range of applications this research can be used for is enormous, from preventing or treating diseases with a genetic element such as cystic fibrosis and breast cancer to creating medicines personalised to one’s genetic code – medicines do not currently have the same effect on everyone due to genetic differences, which can lead to side effects.

Protecting living species, including humans, from suffering means being in a position to protect them, for instance through vaccinations and disease treatments, not ignoring their plight because we’ve imagined experiments are worse than they are.

At some point in the future I have no doubt that we will have developed alternatives to most animal research.

However, we are not there yet and, if we were, then researchers would be compelled by law to stop using animals.


Garford Road