As I may have mentioned before, I try and juggle quite a lot – a full time job, care for my animals, twitching and witching and sometimes it (and me) gets a little frazzled round the edges. Now is one of those times and in my experience, just at the time when you need it the least, one more blinking thing happens. Normally, you can cope with it, but in the circumstances, it just becomes a little too much.
Over the past month, I’ve had a boiler installation that has gone repeatedly wrong, with a service provider and manufacturer whose idea of service is laughable and currently have no hot water and no heating. I’ve had a hugely busy time at work; we have all had to deal with the news that the pet shop is closing; one of the very cherished pet shop animals has died; and it is another Yule/Christmas without much money or time. Once again, I am dealing with circumstances beyond my control and endings that have no apparent beginnings on the horizon!
My current job involves training and it was with my training hat on that I went to see some of our staff who are based at a pharmaceutical company. This company doesn’t just test on animals, it has animal laboratories right there on site. I have avoided the place for years and finally, just when I didn’t need it, the call came in. I did do my best to avoid it again but there was nobody but me and I just had to get on with it.
I travelled down on the train, all the while trying not to think about animal experimentation. It was like trying not to think of a pink elephant. I took some work down on the train and by the end of my journey, my pen was scoring the paper so much it tore.
They have quite high security (for obvious reasons) so I had to provide photo ID and also hand over my mobile phone (as it has a camera on it). I did my training session with a really good bunch of our people and then was treated to a tour of the site (thankfully, just our bit, not the labs). I was told proudly that the research they do saves not only people, but animals too (maybe I mentioned the laboratories once too often).
It had been raining, but as I stood outside, enjoying my cigarette, the sun came out and I could hear the birds and the seagulls and smell the sea air. I felt terrible for the animals who, just a few hundred metres from me, would never feel the sun on their backs, never run in the fresh air and who were condemned to a short life of, at best, discomfort and a shortened life and at worst, pain, fear and an early death.
By this time, I was starting to scratch with the stress of pretending to be a very normal person who thought that this was all jolly good fun. So I beat a hasty retreat as soon as I could and got out of there.
I got on the train and wanted to scream with the injustice of it all. There is no doubt that the company looks after its staff well and people enjoy working there. I would love to say that it all felt a bit like being in the Stepford Wives, with glassy-eyed followers of science walk around muttering, but that would be untrue. The people who work there believe in what they do and they believe that animal experimentation is justified.
I am completely against the use of animal testing for cosmetics, in university research and other spurious reasons. I am not convinced that animal testing has a place in human pharmaceutical research.
But what about animal care? Does it not make sense to test drugs made for animals on the animals themselves? My cats have had life-saving drugs from this company. It occurred to me that other cats suffer and die in these places so that mine can live. And apart from refusing the drugs and thereby putting our own beloved animal’s health at risk, we don’t have a choice.
I came away wanting a good cry and a long, hot, disinfecting bath. Sadly, I came home to a cold house, no hot water and loads of work still to do.
As I write now, the boiler has been fixed so I have heating and hot water again. The cats are getting used to hugging radiators again instead of piling up under the covers with me. I am not sure if anyone reading this has ever tried to sleep with five cats all vying for the warm human mummy tummy spot, but it is certainly entertaining, provided you don’t mind not sleeping much and don’t need to explain away strange scratches on your stomach.
On the subject, Winter is now fully with us both in the UK and the US – please spare a thought and some food for hedgehogs, foxes, birds and other wildlife who may have been caught short by the snow storms and ice and frost.