Today the Nobel prizes are handed out in Stockholm City Hall. To coincide with the awards, a poll of all living medical Nobel laureates has been held and its results are now published.
It is surprising to find unanimity amongst scientists, but according to the poll all these distinguished medical researchers are agreed: the use of animals in research has been vital to medical progress and continues to be so.
A British patients' group called Seriously Ill for Medical Research asked all living laureates in medicine and physiology for their views on the use of animals in medical research. 100 per cent of them agreed with these statements: "Animal experiments have been vital to the discovery and development of many advances in physiology and medicine", and "Animal experiments are still crucial to the investigation and development of many medical treatments." The Seriously Ill for Medical Research group is a tough bunch of campaigners, all 400 of them suffering from incurable diseases. They fear that the animal rights campaigners are increasingly endangering medical research that might find a cure for their illnesses. Founder and director of the campaign is 34-year-old Andrew Blake, who suffers from the wasting disease Friedreich's ataxia. The treasurer has multiple sclerosis and the chair is mother of a child with cystic fibrosis. The group is backed by Stephen Hawking and other distinguished scientists. Andrew Blake sets out to counter the arguments of "animal rights activists peddling pseudo-scientific nonsense attempting to persuade the public, at the expense of seriously ill patients, that animal research is not necessary." However, this group's direct interest in the success of medical research has not protected them from the extreme animal rights activists. Andrew Blake regularly receives threats, a recent one of which read, "Your support for vivisection makes you a target. You have been warned." But they have not been intimidated and they offer support to those researchers under direct attack: there are some 1,000 animal rights attacks a year. Recently Dr David White, an immunologist who works on the current best hope for transplants, has been a target. He breeds pigs with a human gene which may produce an unlimited supply of organs for transplantation. His home has been wrecked three times and a hose pipe put through a skylight, so water poured through the house for a whole weekend. The whereabouts of his laboratory is now a deadly secret. The press has often stirred up hatred of animal researchers - a part of our deeply anti-science culture. The Sun once printed a double-page spread with the names of animal researchers, including that of Professor Terry Partridge. He says: "It printed who we were and where we could be found, and grossly misrepresented our work on muscle disease, saying we used animals unnecessarily. We do use mice with muscular dystrophy for our research, because we have to. …