An anonymous researcher on animal experimentation

"Whenever you talk about [animal] research, the stock answer is to say that we are curing cancer or saving premature babies. You don't talk about finding out what a bit of the brain does just because you are quite curious to know."

- An anonymous UK researcher, quoted in Nature

This week's issue of Nature has pulled together an illuminating group of articles about biomedical researchers' opinions on animal research, including a massive survey. The poll of 1,682 readers indicated that although opinion is a lot more divided than people think, the animal rights movement has put a damper on open debate in the ranks. This damper became even more evident when journalist Emma Marris attempted to get scientists to go on record with their feelings on the controversial topic – hence the anonymity of the above quoter and many others.

The anonymous British scientist also noted that there is pressure to insist that animal research always leads to cures, but suspects that disingenuousness is not necessary because people would still be supportive. The researcher also has a dim opinion of the tendency of some of his/her colleagues to put on an air of guilt that they don't really feel in order not to appear cold-hearted. "I think the standard thing that people tell you is that they are some sort of tortured soul that can't sleep at night but have to do it to cure cancer. I do feel bad about using rats but I can sleep at night — we use the fewest possible and try our best to ensure they suffer as little as possible. People have been pushed into portraying themselves like that because of animal-rights activities."

You can read these and the related articles with a subscription to Nature.