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Windows to the world

27 April 2009

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Category: Communications & media

mouse.jpgThe regular column in The Times called 'The Shift', which profiles different jobs, today featured an animal technologist working at pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. A couple of sentences sum up the difficult but rewarding job these dedicated animal lovers do:

'You'd struggle to find someone here who is not daft about animals,' says Ben, who spends much of his day preparing dozens of mice to be given human cancer. This is the conflict you find everywhere you go in the vast plant: plastered on nearly every cabinet door are pictures of the staff's much loved pet dogs and cats…. you would think this was the worst job in the world for him, but he says, it is the best. 'I'm proud of what I do.'

The profile provides an interesting metaphor. It makes a point of saying that the dog facility, unusually, has windows.

In many ways this type of article, this window on animal research, is the best possible answer to those who would paint animal research as torture. Much better to be open and transparent, than appearing to have something to hide. Of course, there is sometimes good reason not to be open, but it has nothing to do with the way animals are treated and everything to do with the sort of pressure research was facing from animal rights extremism until quite recently.

In a blog in the Daily Telegraph earlier this month, vet Peter Wedderburn asked 'Experiments on animals – science or torture?' This rhetorical question was in response to a ruling by the Information Commissioner that five UK universities must reveal data on research primates.

Peter said: 

‘the release of information is likely to be used by anti-vivisectionists to point an accusing finger at the universities in a way that will make many people feel very uncomfortable.’

Background on the Freedom of Information Act was recently made available in the Policy Issues section on the Understanding Animal Research website.