The case against animal research is a relatively easy one to make. Produce a few cuddly bunnies, talk emotively about evil scientists with electrodes, and there you have it. The case for cutting up small furry animals, on the other hand, is more complex but has other advantages, not least a large budget.

The Association of Medical Research Charities advertised a new post earlier this month. The successful candidate will become director of a new organisation within AMRC to be called Research for Health. It will be their job to put the case for the essential role of animals in medical research.

AMRC is backing its argument with a budget of£150,000 a year, and can no doubt be relied upon to point out that without animal experiments vaccine research would have been crippled, diabetics would have no insulin, there would have been no transplants and no effective drug control of asthma.

This is an emotive issue and those involved in medical research have been targeted by extremist anti-vivisectionists in some very unpleasant ways, as Americans for Medical Progress explains. The reasoned case against the use of animals in research can be found at

To get both sides of the argument and a dispassionate analysis, try New Scientist 's Planet Science collection Beyond the barricades. Though based on a series from 1992, it remains the best guide to the issues, and even includes a study of New Scientist 's own coverage over 20 years.

But perhaps the time has come to ask why so much of the debate focuses on mammals.

If you accept the animal rights case, it is difficult to see why the case for an Insect Liberation Front put in a 1989 article has not yet been acted on.

Or you could turn to the Virtual Frog Dissection Kit and avoid bloodshed.

These and other sites of interest can be reached via HSJ's website at \