THE vast majority of opinion expressed in recent media coverage of animal experiments has been in favour of their continuing with the Government promising to crack down on extremists'.

I support public debate, but an uninformed debate is worthless at best and dangerous at worst.

This debate has so far been particularly ill-informed, based as it is on the premise that animal experiments are a necessary evil, something we do not like to do but have to in order to cure diseases.

The fact is that however many mice you experiment on, you will not find a cure for cancer.

Animal experiments hinder rather than help medical research. They hold back life saving drugs and treatments and allow dangerous ones onto the market.

They also waste vital resources on fruitless avenues of research that will not find cures for diseases. In short, animal experiments kill people.

A growing body of scientific opinion also holds this view, and yet you would think from recent coverage that scientists represent a united front in favour of vivisection.

The Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine and Doctors and Lawyers for Responsible Medicine are just two organisations campaigning against animal experiments on health grounds.

And Dr Richard Klausner, of the National Cancer Institute in America, stated that we have cured mice of cancer for decades and (the treatments) simply didn't work in humans."

The reason for this is simple: mice are not small furry humans. Nor are rats, or rabbits, or beagles, or chimpanzees. Every species is unique biologically, has its own unique diseases and immune system, and metabolises drugs by different pathways and at different rates. This renders animal experiments about as much use as tossing a coin.

Compare this with the 95 per cent confidence for the toxicity testing of drugs in human cell cultures quoted by scientists in evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures.

I campaign against animal experiments not because I am anti-science, as Tony Blair would label me, but because I am pro-science. I want to see cures for diseases, but these will only come about if we abandon the folly that is animal experiments.

Keith Richardson, Lancaster.