ANIMAL rights protesters have been blasted as "insensitive and tasteless" for holding a candlelit vigil for mice and rats which have suffered and died during cancer research.

Campaigners gathered outside the Cancer Research UK charity shop in High Street, West Wickham last Friday as part of the 7th International Animal Rights Day, co-ordinated by the animal rights organisation Uncaged.

They say their aim is to promote debate about the treatment of animals and to achieve international recognition for the rights of animals to be protected from cruelty and killing.

But critics warned the vigil would not go down well with cancer sufferers or those who have lost someone to the disease.

Joyce Pritchard is co-ordinator of Bromley-based Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure (RAGE), which campaigns on behalf of women who have suffered permanent injuries as a result of radiotherapy treatment for breast cancer.

She said: "Perhaps they should hold a vigil for all the people who die because there's not enough research into cures for cancer. I put humans before animals.

"I've had cancer myself and I lost my brother to it last year. It's tasteless and insensitive to people who have got cancer and their families.

"By the law of the land they have to test drugs on animals before they put them out. It's also very frightening for the volunteers in the shop."

But Jan Yarker, of the Passive Pressure Animal Welfare Group, who was at the vigil said: "Being for animal rights means public debate and passionate, intelligent opposition to cruel practices such as those funded by Cancer Research UK.

"It's not a question of putting animals before humans, it's simply about respecting life."

She pointed out research on animals, including dogs, cats and primates, for more than 30 years had not brought a cure for the disease.

She said: "Non-animal research is being done and there are cancer charities which only use this type of non-animal research.

"This is the ethical and scientifically valid way forward,"

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