The animal rights people aren’t terrorists, not even the ugly ones wearing balaclavas and harassing researchers and their families – that’s just big pharma spin. They are stupid, though. Their story-book anthropomorphism is simple-minded, reductive and partial. Animal testing may offend you (it offends me – I’m as sentimental as the next man) and there are mature and sophisticated arguments against the subjection of one species by another and especially against our growing reliance on factory-farmed protein but the use of animals in research is a legitimate extension of domestication.
As a species we have put the animals around us to organised use for at least 10,000 years and this ongoing symbiosis has not imperiled or reduced our humanity – rather it has guaranteed it. Animal protein, muscle power and endurance have, to a large extent, made us what we are today. Animal testing, though it triggers some very basic and very understandable anxieties, will, like intensive animal rearing, continue. Our dislike of vivisection flows from our empathy and our squeamishness, from sensibilities developed through centuries of stories about cuddly woodland creatures, loyal pets and majestic wildlife. We’re obviously going to continue to produce these narratives (Nemo, Shrek, Animal Planet…) even while we quite happily process millions of beasts into mince and sausages and cutlets and bags of offal daily. In the meantime, sickening or not, we must continue to defend the animal testers – they’re the ones who have the stomach to do it for a living and the courage to keep doing so in the face of childish animal rights nihilism.