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Ratty about animal rights

(In a laboratory at Oxford University a scientist deposits a cage on a table. A rat sticks its nose through the bars to hail a neighbouring cage.)

Rat One: Blenkinsop? I’m back!
Rat Two: Flinders! What are you working on these days?
Rat One: I’m collaborating on a cancer treatment with a biochemistry prof. We should get a paper in Nature when he’s killed and autopsied me. You?
Rat Two: I’m off the cannabis-based painkillers. My short-term memory is back. Or had I told you that?
Rat One: No. Heard when we’re moving?
Rat Two: Not that I recall.
Rat One: In February the registrar said work on a new animal lab would begin again “soon”. He said that would represent a victory for science over animal rights extremists. Rat Two: It’s August. “Soon” is evidently a stretchy term if you’re a registrar.
Rat One: Quite. It’s over a year since those beastly extremists harassed the builders into stopping work. Lesser institutions are looking to our alma mater for a lead, so they can proceed with their own more limited, though doubtless worthy, research centres. Rat Two: The extremists appear to have proved their hypothesis that they can inhibit legitimate experimentation simply by harassing contractors. The government and media must be livid.
Rat One: They haven’t noticed. They’re worked up about some rather more toxic terrorists. These ones kill people, instead of just threatening to.
Rat Two: Animal rights issues are off the agenda?
Rat One: Not quite. Tougher laws appear to have reduced harassment.
Rat Two: But not enough to get our new facility back on track.
Rat One: Protesters who branded it a “monkey lab” made a smart move. In fact, peaceful campaigners delivered a petition against primate testing to Downing Street just yesterday.
Rat Two: Odd that humans claim those bottom-scratchers as family.
Rat One: We rats know of only one other species that can claim kinship to humans in its adaptability, aggression and Machiavellian cunning.
Rat Two: But hardly anyone would object to the lab on the basis that us rats would be the main occupants.
Rat One: Hhmm. The illogic is quite un-ratlike. As is the fact that many humans who owe their lives to drugs developed through animal testing oppose it. It’s the kind of sloppy, unadaptive thinking you’d expect of a marmoset.
Rat Two: Maybe humans are primates, after all. Did I mention my short-term memory was back to normal?

Fearsome Blears

Muslim leaders in Oldham warned on Tuesday about the activities of the radical firebrand Sheikh Haz El Blearzi. “It is vital that El Blearzi is deported back to her lawless homeland of Londonistan,” said local imam Mohammed Islam. “She is driving us Oldhamites mad with her incessant preaching.”

El Blearzi, who experts say is a senior officer in the shadowy Home Office organisation, is accused of falsely teaching youngsters that the government gave a hoot about Muslim extremism before July 7. Moderate Muslims say instead it ignored their warnings for years, letting radical preachers operate more freely than double-glazing salesmen.

Our reporter infiltrated a top-secret photo opportunity with local Muslims convened by El Blearzi yesterday at the Alderman Scroggins Memorial Hall in Oldham. There he recorded this example of her spellbinding oratory: “Did I really say the police should stop and search lots of Asians? What I meant was that it was nothing to do with me. So ask Charles Clarke when he gets back from holiday.”

Money Q&A

Q: Hiya! I’m a public employee, still young at heart but planning for retirement. My problem is that my pushy missus talked me into buying a house we couldn’t afford. The interest payments are crippling! I’d like to take it easy: get involved in the church or jet off to the sun for a bit – Africa, maybe. But can I afford it? – Tony, Westminster. A: Hiya to you too, Tony! Financial worries can be a real source of friction in a marriage, can’t they? But things should be about to get easier. The Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates on Thursday. You’re paying around £15,000 a month on that £3.6m dream home. So a quarter point reduction would save you almost £800 a month. I could suggest using your public sector contacts to press the Bank for a bigger cut. But you’d have to slap my wrists afterwards!

At 52 you can’t afford to retire completely. These days many seniors combine relaxation with a part-time job. B&Q is a popular employer. Or how about joining the board of Goldman Sachs?

jonathan.guthrie@ft.com

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