Nature undermines animal research debate
There’s an interesting feature in his week’s Nature on animal experiments. Unfortunately, the issue is set up with the usual ‘Violent extremists vs life-saving scientists’ format – a rather blatant attempt at positioning any and all critics of animal experimentation in a negative light. At the same time, the violence inflicted by animal researchers is denied.
Another recurring aspect of these skewed reports are the expressions of support for institutions developing ‘programmes to explain what goes on within their walls’. This does seem rather contrived given the selfsame institutions have habitually gone out of their way to conceal relevant information through intimidatory legal actions or spin. On the latter, the UK Information Tribunal concluded that the abstracts of research proposals written by researchers and published by the Home Office:
“… appear generally to adopt a style and tone intended to persuade the reader as to the value of the proposed experiments. This is in contrast to the style of the licence applications, which are more neutral in tone. This perception of a positive spin having been applied to the published information was increased by the absence from the abstracts of the detail about the experiments themselves.”
Researchers need to develop a less elitist attitude and accept the public has an ethical and democratic right to ultimate control over their activities. Clauses in the new EU Directive may force more honesty, but the UK Government will no doubt do its best to implement these measures in as meagre way as possible.