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More on Martinez and Animal Rights

February 19, 1988

Iwould like to commend you on having the courage to print the excellent article regarding animals in biomedical research (Feb. 7). Today, as the animal rights groups grow increasingly strident and emotional (witness the response to Al Martinez's "Dog and Man") it is reassuring to see that reason and rational thought are still alive.

One letter accused Mr. Martinez of "displaying ignorance and lack of compassion." This strikes me as ironic, since it is precisely these things which flaw the contentions of the animal rights activists. The ignorance becomes apparent when these activists are asked to suggest viable alternatives to animal research. By far the most popular answer (right after dead silence) is: "Well, they could do it on computers." To anyone with the barest grounding in biology, this idea is immediately ludicrous. When the day comes that researchers are able to recreate every single aspect of the human body on a computer, animal rights will be only one of the problems we have put behind us. For the present, such advanced technology is completely impossible.

So much for ignorance. Now, as for compassion, it appears that the animal protectors' concern is a little misplaced. Suppose that animal testing was to be completely eradicated? Assuming that at present we have nothing to take its place, what then? Are the animal rights groups ready to test drugs for side effects on human beings? That's certainly compassionate. Are these groups ready to sacrifice medical advances and cures for diseases? I wonder whether any of these zealots would debate for long if asked whether he would choose the life of a guinea pig over the cure for a terminally ill loved one.

Now, I doubt whether any thinking, caring human being would advocate the use of pets as research animals, nor champion the mistreatment or neglect of animals in research. But the use of specially bred laboratory animals used in research under carefully regulated conditions is, at present, a necessary part of scientific and medical research. The animal rights groups no doubt have the best of intentions, but not always the best methods, nor the most cohesive of arguments. It would behoove them to replace some of the inflammatory rhetoric with some realistic and rational facts to better fill the logical and informational gaps in their stance.

KATHY LESLIE

Thousand Oaks

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