The Island of Doctor Moreau
There can be few more revolting sights than the trestle table plastered with lurid photographs of vivisected animals which invariably gets put up in street markets all over London on a Saturday morning. I can’t understand why more people aren’t outraged by the “animal activists” and their emotive pornography of interspecies violence – I often stop and give them a row – but mostly they’re unmolested. There is something peculiarly nutty about attacking humans in orders to save animals – as the Animal Liberation Front have this week: a fire bomb at the home of the corporate controller of GlaxoSmithKline; another device at an Oxford University sports pavilion; and a third at the home of a broker who had merely invested in one of the contractors building the new University primate research laboratory.
Nutty – but effective. The contractor has pulled out, and such is the terror generated in the heart of Big Pharma, that the New York Stock Exchange is unwilling to list companies involved in animal experimentation. Meanwhile, Darley Oaks guinea pig farm – which has been the object of a vicious and sustained campaign – has announced that it will close by the end of the year. It was the theft of the remains of the mother-in-law of the Farm’s owner from a Staffordshire graveyard which highlighted the grotesque lengths the ALF will go to, to put animal breeders out of business.
But really the ALF would be better off getting hold of a time machine, because then they could go back a few thousand years and firebomb the ancient Peruvians who were responsible for domesticating guinea pigs in the first place. In truth, the relationship between humans and guinea pigs – like that between all settled populations and their domesticated animals – has element of circularity about it. The guinea pig is particularly useful to researchers establishing diagnostic tests for tuberculosis, because of their low resistance to the tubercle bacillus, yet tuberculosis itself is a disease humans have acquired from cows.
Personally, I see no real moral distinction between testing lifesaving drugs on guinea pigs, cutting up chimpanzees to examine their brains in the name of “pure” science, or dripping shampoo into puppy dogs’ eyes so we can have shinier coifs. It’s all part and parcel of way humans use other animals for our own ends. When people talk of “humane vivisection”, whether in terms of its ends or its means, they’re really referring to making people feel better about this ruthless exploitation.
Indeed, all epidemic diseases – just like hair care products – are a result of the settled lifestyle of humans, so if we want to eliminate animal experimentation our best possible option is to abandon civilisation and become nomadic. I suspect this is what the ALF would like to do – and good luck to them; if they find anywhere salubrious I’ll happily join them. Of course, by abandoning the cities we’ll be sealing the death warrant for viruses that require dense populations of human hosts – and surely viruses have rights too? I’ll become a supporter of the ALF when they become the Virus Liberation Front as well.
The Valley of the Blind
To the Greater London Assembly where the Mayor’s Women’s Affairs Advisor had thoughtfully arranged for a memorial to be held for the great American feminist writer Andrea Dworkin. It was an event at once thought-provoking and emotional. Looking out through the pregnant belly of the building’s facade at the phallic towers of the City, we heard extracts read from Dworkin’s devastating and eloquent attacks on pornography, sexual violence and misogyny in all its forms.
It was uncomfortable listening for the men in the audience – but then so far as I could make out there were only about three of us. The vast majority of the 200-odd present were women – and not just any old women, these were mostly radical, lesbian separatists who eschewed so-called “feminine” fripperies and furbelows. Speakers poured as much scorn on “liberal feminists” as they did on the hated “patriarchs”. How curious it was therefore to observe that these women in their neutral trousers and jackets, sporting short hair cuts and only the most discrete jewellery, looked so much like, well, like men. It was as strange as if communist revolutionaries rallied wearing black tie and smoking Havanas, or antifascists donned Nazi uniforms.
War of the Worlds
What is with the Met and their sirens? During the July terrorist incidents there wasn’t five minutes of the day when a siren couldn’t be heard, rising and falling like a demented whippoorwill, from the room in Stockwell where I work. Now things have calmed down a little, and the constabulary don’t seem to feel that the only way they can prove to the populace that they’re hot on the trail of malefactors is by advertising it to the world. Nevertheless, on Saturday night we were hopelessly snarled in traffic running down Earlham Street from Seven Dials to Cambridge Circus, when a police car started up its siren and left it on for a full ten minutes. There was no possibility of them gaining and advantage by this – the press of cabs, cars, rickshaws and revellers simply couldn’t budge. They’d have been better off getting out of their car, strolling up to the window of each of the jammed vehicles in turn and politely asking us to move as soon as we were able – a bit like Dixon of Dock Green.