Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: A dog's life - why we should test

Benji the beagle at the Greens' delivery of their anti-testing petition at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Benji the beagle at the Greens' delivery of their anti-testing petition at Parliament. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Just about everyone agrees that the moves to permit psycho-active substances to be sold if they can be proved to be safe are A Good Thing. One of the few areas for dispute is whether or not they should be tested on animals.

To make clear their opposition to this, a Greens-led group trundled out a pack of adorable beagles to prove ... well, nothing really, other than that they could corral a pack of adorable beagles.

There is a school of thought that animals have equal rights with humans, and those who oppose animal testing naturally cleave to this view.

But, when it comes to the question of dogs' rights versus humans', I'm of the opinion that both species are better off with us calling the shots than we would be if we put dogs in charge.

It's easy to get mixed up about this.

As Jerry Seinfeld once pointed out: if a being from another planet visited and saw one life-form walking in front while a second life-form walked behind attached to a rope and carrying its body waste in a bag, there would be no doubt which of the two was in charge.

As to animal testing, it's a regrettable necessity. I would rather potentially dangerous drugs that have the potential to save lives were tested under controlled conditions, using measured doses on animals, than on my own species.

Makeup and other fripperies that are tested on animals are a different matter. Makeup may have often saved lives, but only metaphorically.

And, at the moment, drugs are being tested every weekend by unwitting teenagers who have no idea what they are putting into their bodies and can suffer disastrous consequences as a result.

A counter-protest that involved wheeling out people who had suffered physical or psychological damage as a result of using drugs that haven't been tested on anybody or anything might have been effective, but those who support a sensible drug policy tend to prefer reason to shock tactics - even when those involve cute little packages with floppy ears and great big googly eyes.

Speaking of potentially fatal substances and the use of reason, modern medicine frequently requires the use of toxic substances for best results. Chemotherapy, for instance, involves consuming things that can kill you. This phenomenon is even more pronounced in the area of mental health, which is notorious for the number of poisons, such as Olanzapine or Pipotiazine, it has in its arsenal.

So, if someone is better able to cope with therapy to treat their mental illness with a cigarette in one hand, surely that cigarette is as much a part of their cure as any other pharmaceutical and they should be allowed it. Unfortunately, smoking is a morally-loaded issue. "They're not just crazy, they're addicts! Well, at least we can do something about that."

The High Court attempt to overturn the Waitemata District Health Board ban on smoking for patients in its acute mental health units appears doomed. The chance of a victory for reason is as low as it usually is when common sense confronts sanctimony.

Following its finding that - though they don't put it this way - everyone screwed up big time in the matter of the Tuhoe raids, the report of the Independent Police Conduct Authority into Operation Eight has recommended the police "re-engage and build bridges with the Ruatoki community". Now, I know the police have to do some tough jobs, but you have to wonder which hapless bunny will have fallen out with his or her superiors so badly that they will earn that plum assignment.

- Herald on Sunday

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