Animal vivisection at Trinity
Madam, - A recent public demonstration by the National Animal Rights Association (NARA) drew attention to its claim that animal vivisection is carried out regularly basis in the biology department of Trinity College, Dublin.
In an email to me, a spokeswoman for NARA said: "They test on mice, rats, rabbits, guinea pigs-and even sheep, pigs and horses when they can. Most of it is just for medical students to get experience, though they do have a research laboratory too." She claimed that a scientist from the college had spoken to NARA protesters on the street and "admitted that the only reason they still use animals is because it's cheaper and more convenient".
A senior member of the biology department at Trinity confirmed to me by telephone that vivisection is indeed carried on in the college. He said vivisection was a "very emotive term" - it is not emotive, it is precise - and courteously offered to discuss the matter with me, or to have other people at the college speak to me about it.
I declined. My position on the matter is not open to discussion.
It is a disgrace that one of the country's leading educational institutions, a seat of learning and enlightenment, should be engaged in such brutal and unnecessary practices. A part of our responsibility as human beings is the protection of species at a lower evolutionary level than ourselves. To inflict unendurable agony upon conscious animals is barbaric.
If vivisection afforded unique benefits to medical science - which it does not - it would still be wrong: one of the most venerable tenets of civilisation is that the end does not justify the means. Aside from considering the well-being of the animals, it is surely obvious that the inuring of young men and women to the sufferings of defenceless creatures under their charge can hardly be conducive to training them as responsible and empathetic physicians.
I join the NARA in calling on the TCD authorities to order an immediate halt to these appalling practices. - Yours, etc.
JOHN BANVILLE, Dublin 1.