SIR – Pauline Burgess (August 8) again writes to lambast medical testing on animals.

She deploys a common myth. The myth is that “the introduction of blood transfusions was delayed more than 200 years because of misleading results of animal tests”.

Like many pseudo-scientific myths, the truth is in fact the opposite. It was animal testing between 1900 and 1916 which enabled blood transfusions to become a viable medical process. The notion that, in the early years of the 18th century, 20 decades earlier, blood transfusion could have been anything like a routine medical procedure, is simply nonsense.

It was testing on animals in the early 20th century which gave us this procedure.

In refuting this particular myth, I should not be taken to mean that animal testing is in some way infallible. However, the overall benefits of medical testing on animals are incontrovertible.

Currently, common pigeons are being used to develop treatments for malaria. In addition to more than 500 million non-fatal cases, malaria happens to kill between one and three million human beings every year. The majority are children.

There are two options: 1, We can inflict suffering on perhaps dozens upon dozens of pigeons, for which the possible consequence might be the alleviation of the suffering – and perhaps even the saving of the lives – of millions upon millions of people. Or, 2, We could spare the pigeons, and waste perhaps years of research looking for a way to make progress more “humanely” – while millions of human beings continue to suffer and die.

Bob Churchill,