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The Centre for Animals and Social Justice and the RSPCA have issued the following statement expressing concerns about the format and background of the ‘Big Animal Research Debate’. Our criticism has been reported in Times Higher Education:

It is unfortunate that the organisers of the debate have decided to start with an overly simplistic, absolutist position for what is in fact a complex controversy. In our view, this significantly diminishes its value and undermines its likely contribution to public understanding of animal experimentation.

The debate motion calls for an immediate ban on animal experiments, but both the letter of the law and the majority of the public currently judge animal experiments on a far more nuanced case-by-case, harm-benefit basis, rather than forcing an all-or-nothing position. The crude framing of the motion merely risks encouraging a very polarised debate and manufactured voting result, as well as obscuring the very real ethical and animal welfare issues involved and the many legitimate questions around scientific validity.

Public tolerance for animal research both in principle, and for its continuation in the short term, does not mean support for everything that is currently being done to animals in laboratories. Nor does it indicate satisfaction with the current state of transparency and honesty about levels of animal suffering, or satisfaction with the effectiveness of current regulation. Neither does it indicate support for the upwards trend in the number of animal experiments likely to cause pain and distress in the UK. Numbers have risen from 2.7 million in 1997 to over 4 million in 2012, contrary to the Government and animal research lobby groups’ claimed commitment to the reduction, refinement and replacement of animal experiments.

We believe the way this debate is framed is unlikely to increase public understanding of the real ethical dilemmas around animal research, or allow true public opinion to be gauged, and our concern is that it will merely force people into making a choice between only the most entrenched and polarized positions.

Dr Dan Lyons (CASJ)

Dr Maggy Jennings & Dr Barney Reed (RSPCA)

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