IT was a small item that disappeared in the greater news from Iraq, which might otherwise have received more serious attention. There is now clear, statistical evidence that public support for medical research using animals has increased over the past few years as a result of the opposition to it from animal rights activists. Yes, that’s right: increased, not decreased.

Animal rights groups in this country over the past decade or more have not simply been unsuccessful, their activity and very existence has effected the exact opposite of that for which they have campaigned. There must be many young members who are genuine in their convictions, and there are undoubtedly valid arguments from among those in their manifestos; there is loss and there have been losers, but overall it is heartingly good news.

There is no suggestion that the public has become more cruel to animals or that concern for their proper treatment in research laboratories has lessened; rather the opposite. But an appreciation of the issues involved has increased, and support for such medical research grown. That of itself is not necessarily good news; as other surveys have shown that the overweening ambitions of medical researchers will one day have to be curbed.

All the same, the supposition that single issue politics needs only perseverance in order to win every time has received a timely set-back. The dehumanizing agenda of the animal rights lobby and animal liberation movement is a serious threat to any civilization, not merely a Christian one.

The sentimentalizing of animals and the corresponding belittling of human persons has been a disturbing trend of the past few decades, even when promoted by academic philosophers. Singer’s thesis that an adult monkey has more moral worth than a human baby (let alone a foetus) is only the most public example of an increasingly nasty creed. Its crusading confidence made us fear that human values themselves were under threat in their new non-speciesist world.

An understanding of the Person is one of the great challenges of this century. By person, we (Christians) mean human persons. A set back for the arrogance and violence of the opposition is not the same as a victory, but it is an unexpected encouragement. NT