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Introduction to the Fourth International Scientific Congress, Vancouver 1997

Joy Palmer, Founder-Director, DLRM

Greetings, and a very warm welcome to you all. First of all, I would like to point out that I am neither a doctor nor a lawyer, simply a member of the general public who, as I shall be saying later, have a duty, and a right, to share in the responsibility for putting truly scientific medicine on the map. But, I assure you that our speakers are distinguished members of their respective professions.

On behalf of Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine (DLRM), I would like to thank you for joining us in this important conference, at which our eminent speakers from the medical and legal professions will place before you facts of vital significance for the future of life on this planet. The theme today is Xenotransplantation, which is an aspect of the practice of vivisection. The conference will discuss why we should be deeply concerned about animal experiments, with particular emphasis today on animal to human organ transplants.
DLRM believes that medicine based on animal experiments is unscientific, because of the insuperable barriers of species differences. Laboratory animals (so-called models for man) do not reflect human physiology, psychology, life-style or diseases. These differences inevitably lead medicine astray, resulting in harmful side-effects from drugs, misdiagnoses of existing diseases and the loss of potential cures for current health problems, as well as the creation of new diseases. This only adds to and causes further horrific suffering, both to humans and to animals.

For over a century, thousands of doctors and scientists have condemned, on both ethical and scientific grounds, the practice of animal experiments for human medicine, recognizing and acknowledging, that the differences between species render such a method misleading, and therefore invalid. Despite the sacrifice of hundreds of millions of animals, at the cost of billions of dollars, we are still no nearer finding cures for major diseases, such as: cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, (even the common cold), and cancer. Why? (We are now being told that one person in four is actually dying of cancer, whereas it used to be that one in three was contracting the disease). And many new diseases arising from possible medical mistakes as well as from environmental problems, have come to plague us still further.

DLRM started out in 1990 as Doctors in Britain against Animal Experiments, on medical and scientific grounds (DBAE).Its membership included doctors, scientists in medical fields, veterinary surgeons, dental surgeons, and associate membership of other medical personnel, as well as members of the general public. Its aim was the total and immediate abolition of animal experiments - as it still is.

After its second international scientific congress DBAE became international and, following its third international congress in 1995, at which it was joined by lawyers, changed its name to Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine.

DLRM's decision to acquire medico-legal status grew out of a recognition of the increasing number of links between the medical and legal professions. We believe in the basic right to health, so that there should be a legal right to go to law if a medical procedure or substance is introduced which carries with it a potential risk of endangering health. This right can only be gained by legislation.

Though there is a strong body of pro-vivisectors against us, we are making great inroads into their defences. In their vain attempts to dismiss the rising tide of qualified professionals who can see the folly and the tragedy of inter-species research for human medicine, the proponents of vivisection persist in underestimating our strength. They try to minimise our influence by quoting the fact that we are in a minority compared with those who support animal experimentation as the saviour of human health.

Our answer to that is: Yes, we are in a minority, so far, mainly due to the fallacious education and brainwashing of the majority (who are not necessarily evil but who are often merely misguided by misinformation). In the medical world, there also exists a fear of victimisation of one kind or another - lower exam assessments, loss of promotion, the power of vested interests and so on. There are many who feel that they would have to throwaway much of their years of study and also lose face if they were to accept abolition of animal experimentation, and join us. But there are many brave souls who stand out against such opposition, and history has proved that all great changes and movements start from minority groups. We know, too, that there are thousands of medical and scientific workers who would like to declare their support, and it is through strengthening our influence, and thereby our ability to encourage such sympathies, that we can earn their membership.

I would like to point out here that we are not against doctors per se. There are, of course, many excellent, kind and caring doctors, who often perform near-miracles in saving life and health - I can testify to this from personal experience (of orthodox and holistic practitioners), as well as from my observations of other patients. But great and serious errors do occur, causing further needless pain and even loss of life, because of the unscientific methodology of inter-species testing. Patients are increasingly turning away from orthodox medicine. They have lost faith and confidence. Note how popular are the exhibitions of Natural Holistic Medicine.

There are understandably many who oppose or disagree with vivisection purely on the grounds of animal welfare, which is certainly reasonable in view of the horrific misery and pain endured by laboratory animals - and senselessly endured at that, since the results of such work are, in fact, spurious. Such wanton cruelty is a strong ethical argument against vivisection, but this argument detracts from the fact that results from animal experimentation do not work and should be stopped NOW for that very reason, whether or not one sympathizes with the animals, which many do not. So also the call for reduction of animal experiments, the so-called "3 Rs" (Reduce, Refine, Replace), much loved by those who profess to oppose animal experimentation ostensibly on animal welfare grounds, but claim it is necessary to continue until alternatives are found. There are, again, those who genuinely wish to end vivisection (also on grounds of animal welfare) and mistakenly believe reduction to be at least a step on the way. Firstly, this is small comfort for the millions of animals still being subjected to the laboratory experiments. Secondly, it would imply that those animal experiments remaining are valid and useful, which they are not, as already explained. What is the point in continuing any such research when it is unreliable and harmful to those it is supposedly intended to help, namely humans! DLRM does not accept the "3 Rs" principle.

A further frequent argument states that it is simply a question of finding alternatives to the unacceptable use of animals; but this gives false credence to vivisection, since the word "alternative" implies a simple choice from equally valid options, and vivisection can never be scientifically valid. This argument also disregards the fact that medicine researched by such a false method, even when effective and apparently safe, is so despite, and not because of animal testing.

The case for banning animal tests for cosmetics - incidentally, less than one per cent of the total of animal experiments - is similarly flawed. It is mistakenly justified on the sole grounds that cosmetics are not essential in the way that medicine is - which again confuses the issue, as animal tests are not valid in either field. But this argument is welcomed by those who wish to sustain and perpetuate the practice of animal experiments, since it may well serve to appease anti-vivisectionists to some degree and so act as a delaying tactic and diversion from the wider issues.

It is important to understand that it is not only qualified doctors and lawyers who are, in ever-greater numbers, taking on board the responsibility of abolishing vivisection, on scientific grounds: this responsibility is also being increasingly accepted by society at large. We must always remember the fact that all sections of the public are capable of recognising and understanding the flaws and dangers of such research. They therefore have as much right, and indeed duty, to be involved in this campaign as have the professionals. We all have a share in the responsibility - though our detractors would have us believe that the lay-person hasn't the wit or the knowledge to understand what is going on!

We now have seriously to ponder on what is being allowed to happen all over the world - and what we are bequeathing to our children. Unfortunately, this is not just scaremongering. It is a fact. We already have genetic engineering and the imminence of xenotransplantation, with their inherent dangers and potential horrors. And now we have cloning, too! Where will it all end? And what will it end -life on this earth? Are we going to continue on this obviously wrong path, thus wasting the talents of great present and future doctors and scientists? We should also bear in mind the enormous waste of resources behind what has become a multi-national industry - which is a huge profit-spinner, instead of what it should be: the source of genuine cures for current illnesses and of research into preventive medicine.

What, then, are we going to do? What can we do? We cannot afford to be complacent - it is not simply a question of pursuing a hobby which one can take up or leave at a whim. We need to step up our endeavours, to be prepared to make real sacrifices. We have to double and redouble our efforts NOW. There is no time to lose. As Dr. Fadali said, we must inform ourselves, and then others on the facts of this vital issue. Throughout history, it has tended to be the concerned few who have brought about great changes in civilisation. We cannot leave this one to chance or to "other" people -the gamble would be too great. It is late. We all of us have a share in the burden of this responsibility.

At our conference today, we shall have the opportunity and privilege of hearing from concerned and aware experts, who will present us with evidence of mistakes which have already been made, as well as the enormous increasing risks with which we are now being faced - but which we still have the potential to avert if we choose. We are asking you to listen and to consider what they have to say. You will then be able to judge for yourselves the validity of the arguments put before you - and to assess society's imprudence and irresponsibility, if we fail to act.

This, then, is our challenge - to work urgently and wholeheartedly towards achieving our goal, for the sake of all life, born and as yet unborn.
It is my great pleasure to declare this conference open.

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