The proud and beautiful creature on the cover of the next issue of Animal Aid's members' magazine is a goldcrest, Britain's tiniest bird. She weighs about 6 grams, or a fifth of one ounce. Though physically diminutive, goldcrests are giants when it comes to ambition and staying power. A national newspaper columnist recently described encountering several exhausted, half-starved goldcrests on a stretch of north Norfolk coastline. They were searching for food along the base of a sea wall and then later among some pine trees that reached to the salty dunes. Incredibly, they had flown all the way over the North Sea, probably from Denmark.
Another diminutive animal also occupied my mind this past week: the exquisitely sensitive mouse. These are animals who are bred on a vast scale, usually with deliberately induced genetic weaknesses, so that they can be exploited with brutal inefficiency by 'researchers' who tell us they're about to unlock the secret of why human beings get sick and how to cure them.
While goldcrests are easy to admire, there's also much to be said about Mus musculus. Mouse pups are born deaf and blind and require devoted nursing and protection to survive. Or, consider what comes before their birth: Male mice use 'love songs', pitched at an ultrasonic level, to court females, who vigorously clean themselves all over to show interest. These, of course, are the free-living animals; lab-bred mice are warehoused in plastic boxes and stacked in racks.
The massive over-breeding of genetically modified animals was revealed last month in Home Office statistics relating to all vivisection completed in 2014. At Animal Aid we burrowed deep into thickets of data... but there, finally, it was: a total of 1.94 million GM animals, mostly mice, were incinerated - many of them soon after birth - having been assessed by the establishments concerned as being of no use. How can such a vast and brutally witless enterprise exist? In addition to the mice who went from the breeding units to the incinerator, approximately 620,000 GM animals, in 2014, had to endure actual experiments. Typically, such 'procedures' have included the infliction of deliberate brain damage, chemical poisoning and forced swimming to the point of exhaustion.
Animal Aid has long fought to expose the medically useless GM animal research racket (see our February 2013 report, Science Corrupted). But why is there no general outcry? The answer is depressingly familiar to anyone who has studied a little history. When a powerful group wants to exploit a weaker group, without limit and without moral qualms or wider social disquiet, it must disseminate a version of its victims that renders them essentially without feeling or meaning.
In more than one meeting with senior Home Office officials, Animal Aid has heard mice described as being of 'lower sentience' than other, usually larger, species used in labs. They are, to the governing bureaucracy, quasi non-animals. This means that researchers, who already face minimal constraints as to what they can inflict on non-rodent animals, have a virtually free hand when it comes to mice.
Such heartlessness is very much not a product of ignorance. The recasting of mice as lab tools without true feelings or meaning is an essential feature of the belief system that underpins and 'justifies' their systematic exploitation.
Our job is to ensure that the truth is heard. We must remind the world that every mouse in every lab is real and individual, and that when they call out for an end to their suffering, at a sonic pitch researchers are deaf to, their cry is as meaningful as anything a richly-plumaged bird on the wing can muster.
To support Animal Aid's campaign for an end to the use of animals in biomedical research, visit our Victims of Charity website: http://www.victimsofcharity.org.