ANIMAL TESTING at Huntingdon Life Science (HLS) had gone on for many years before it began attracting attention. Protests about the site began after an undercover TV reporter catalogued incidents showing abuse of animals during experiments.
Other animal-testing institutions have probably perpetrated similar abuses against animals, despite supposedly strict government laws about testing on animals but HLS became a focal point of animal rights protests.
Undoubtedly, concern for animal welfare is mixed in with an anti-corporate consciousness. HLS isn't simply a research centre where results are beneficially turned over to cure human conditions. It's primarily a contract company, testing on animals to assist big corporations in agribusiness, chemicals etc.
This angered those seeking to get the company shut down. That's why the campaign attracted such active support. Additionally, HLS - like most if not all companies in this field - is very secretive about its contracts, about what it actually does and for whom.
HLS provides a vital service for big business. Look who's lining up to support it. From The Royal Bank of Scotland, to former Prime Minister John Major, the current government and a mysterious American backer, big business interests are clearly the keenest to keep HLS open.
Despite HLS breaking government testing regulations where two workers were successfully prosecuted - it's been allowed to continue its animal testing without needing to justify its methods or its business interests. That is particularly why New Labour has rushed to its defence.
Companies like HLS not only treat animals with barbaric contempt, they treat humans badly as well.
HLS is prepared to let all its staff continue working under very stressful conditions, because it won't outline what research it's doing and who it has lucrative contracts with. Many of these companies have often in the past jeopardised their own workers' health and safety, making them work with hazardous substances etc.
But multinational science companies aren't just indifferent to their own workers' wellbeing. In Third World countries the population is often used as human guinea pigs. Last week Pfizer, the multinational drug company, was accused of tampering with medical test documents after allegedly 'unsafe' tests on children in Nigeria in order to get a certificate allowing distribution and use of a drug.
The Socialist believes that these profit-hungry multinationals should be nationalised under democratic working class control and management. Scientific research should be controlled through government agencies. A proper national scientific survey could then be conducted to find out which tests require use of animal testing and the circumstances under which it could happen.
Animals and humans are abused by big business. It's justified as being in scientific interests when it's actually in the corporation's profit interests.
Many scientific staff have no option other than to work for these profit-sucking companies - their safety and jobs need to be protected. The best way to do that is to nationalise these companies under working class control and management to continue with ethical scientific research or to fund alternative production at these plants to guarantee workers' jobs and income.
New Labour has rushed to defend these companies, their bosses and large shareholders. It has done nothing to properly defend the interests of the majority of staff working in these industries or to answer the concerns of the protesters.