SIR – Medical research on non-human animals is not, as Pauline Burgess suggests (Letters, July 16) something which should be “outlawed”, nor should it be contrasted to “real science”. Development and testing on non-human animals has been and still is of fundamental importance to medical research and is a very real science. That’s not just me talking, that’s the consistent conclusion of three independent inquiries held in just the last five years in the UK.

It is not evidence in favour of the anti-vivisectionist position that “more than 250,000 Britons are hospitalised every year by adverse drug reactions”. This number would be even higher if we did not test on non-human animals.

If Ms Burgess has never suffered from smallpox, she has animal-testing on cows to thank. Polio treatments we owe to testing on mice and monkeys. Insulin was developed on fish and dogs. There are vaccines for tetanus (thank the horse), rubella (thank the monkey), anthrax (sheep), and rabies (dogs and rabbits).

Only the ignorant, and tabloid newspapers, are unaware that ethics runs deep in scientific discourse. Of course there are often alternatives to animal testing, and using these alternatives wherever expedient is obviously an ethical principle to uphold.

And it is a principle already binding on scientists by law. Licences to test on animals are not handed out like fliers on the street.

A deadly serious question for Ms Burgess: Would you seriously ‘outlaw’ this research?