Several years ago I started a campaign to support UK scientists who use animals for medical research.
The campaign – The People’s Petition – tapped in to a popular feeling that the government was not doing enough to protect research scientists from threats and violence from animal rights protestors.
By its own terms, The People’s Petition was a success. It gained a lot of media coverage, started a debate on the rights and wrongs of research, and showed the government that there was public support for a tougher line on animal rights intimidation.
Then in 2007 I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and spent six months undergoing chemotherapy. For me, the debate on medical research and animal testing became academic (and I was now involved as a human subject in a research trial myself, on the effectiveness of a monoclonal antibody in treating cancer).
Earlier this year I found myself getting involved again in the animal research question. I’ve been to visit labs where this research is carried out, I’ve interviewed leading scientists about the need for medical research and a few weeks ago took part in Channel 4’s 4thought (on the tangential theme of ‘do animals have souls?’).
It’s been an interesting – and surprising – experience. I never imagined I would become involved in campaigning for animal-based research. But I believe it is the right thing to do. The more I learn about research and researchers, the more convinced I become about the importance – and moral urgency – of their work.