Sir – Joseph Westrick (Letters, December 31) and many others seem to think that scientists are fiends who want to experiment on animals. This isn’t true.

The reason animal experiments are performed is because there is no alternative: they are a necessary evil. When testing a new drug for instance, animal experiments are essential in assessing drug safety prior to human administration. Or do people want to see disasters such as thalidomide?

I have never directly performed animal experiments, but have performed experiments on animal blood at various times in my career (not in Oxford).

I have, therefore, been in close contact with animal house staff and have been greatly impressed with the treatment of the animals where I worked.

One technician regularly cuddled and petted the experimental rabbits. When finally they were vivisected, they were thoroughly anaesthetised and so wouldn’t have felt any pain whatsoever. In another institution a technician made a point of providing an interesting environment for experimental mice with toilet rolls.

Many scientists are animal lovers who have domestic pets of their own.

They treat experimental animals with respect and gratitude, and strive to give them as high a quality of life as possible. Virtually anyone who has been in contact with modern medicine has benefited from animal experimentation. This makes illegal behaviour on the part of animal rights protesters all the more hypocritical.

And lastly, in response to Joseph Westrick’s question, as a medical student I do hope to contribute to the alleviation of human suffering.

Daniel Emlyn-Jones, Oxford