A UK campaigning organisation has launched a petition in support of animal-based research for medical purposes, in an attempt to provide a counterpoint to the vocal arguments against animal testing put forward by animal rights activists.

The Coalition for Medical Progress started the campaign, dubbed the People’s Petition, to bring attentions to the views of what it considers to be the ‘silent majority’ amongst the public who support the use of animals where no alternative exists. The CMP includes pharmaceutical companies and research agencies among its membership.

The petition, which allows signatories to remain anonymous and register their views via a website, will ask members of the public whether they agree with three propositions concerning experiments on animals:

  1. medical research is essential for developing safe and effective human and veterinary treatments, requiring some studies using animals;
  2. where there is no alternative available, medical research using animals should continue in the UK; and
  3. people involved in medical research using animals have a right to work and live without fear of intimidation or attack.

“According to MORI research, 75% of the population accept the need for animal studies in medical research but this silent majority rarely gets heard,” said the CMP in a statement.

Opponents of animal testing dismissed the project, claiming that most people would change their minds if people saw the real suffering that went on inside UK research laboratories.

“Inside animal laboratories, it is still legal for animals to legally be burned, poisoned, electrocuted, brain damaged, paralysed, infected with disease, surgically altered, psychologically abused and killed. This is simply morally unacceptable,” said Alistair Currie, campaigns director of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

The UK has already implemented a series of measures to restrict the activities of extreme elements among the animal rights activists, including the passage of the Serious Organised Crime Act, which came into effect midway through 2005.

Incidents of damage to company, personal or public property, as well as abusive or threatening letters and text messages were all reduced, although there was an uptick in the number of firebomb attacks and physical attacks causing injury to individuals over the same period, according to figures compiled by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).