A spate of campaigns have been launched in opposition to animal cruelty in Oxford, one from an academic within the university and another from a charity attacking the university’s ethical stance.
Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, has called for the establishment of an international court that would “judge cases of animal cruelty and specifically assess the culpability of governments”.
The proposals come in the same week that the Anti-Vivisection Coalition (AVC) launched a campaign to stop public funding to an Oxford University lab that experiments on monkeys. Luke Steele, head of AVC, explained the campaign: “University of Oxford inflicts severe suffering on primates in experiments, sawing open their skulls and implanting electrodes into their brains. This cruelty is subsidised by the very public who oppose its conduction. We call for change to reflect the exodus away from monkey testing taking place in other countries.”
Much like Prof. Linzey’s proposal, the AVC hope to persuade the government of their case.
Prof. Linzey’s proposal, however, implicitly criticises the relatively narrow scope of the ANC campaign: “Although animal protection is obviously a matter of global concern, animal protectionists have sometimes been slow in recognizing this fact and have contented themselves with working on an issue-by-issue, country-by-country basis. But what this approach neglects is the need for international strategies to tackle what are global problems.”
Luke Steele, however, expressed his support for Prof. Linzey’s proposal: “AVC wholly supports the founding of an international court to judge animal cruelty cases. In primate laboratories, such as those at Oxford, traditionalism is prevalent and legislative enforcement would force animal experimenters to abandon outdated testing methods.”
A spokesperson for Voice for Ethical Research Oxford (VERO) came out in support of the AVC campaign and similarly chided Oxford’s conservatism: “in the universities, resistance to change is strongest, even though the UK law has been urging and promoting the switch to alternatives since 1986. Oxford University used and killed about 200,000 animals in experiments in 2012 – an astonishing increase of over 25% on the previous year, which it didn’t voluntarily make known. It signed a formal promise a year or two ago to be more ‘open’ about it, but VERO has been keenly awaiting any sign since then that the promise was a serious and honourable one.”
Statistics from Oxford University reveal that of the 200,000 animals used in 2012, 98% of research was conducted on rodents and the rest on fish, frogs, ferrets, and primates. In all, 29 primates were held of research. Richard Beck, a third year engineer at Somerville, said; “As long as it isn’t needlessly cruel I don’t see the problem. If the research being done is necessary and well-regulated then why not test on animals?”
Noah Viner, a second year linguist at Trinity, said: “A lot of the protestors claims are unfounded and overblown. Whilst we should avoid being needlessly cruel the research being conducted on primates is relatively minor and not as severe as AVC’s claims would have the public believe.”
The AVC petition has received almost 3,000 signatures on change.org, but will need a further 7,000 before it can be read in parliament. The AVC campaign has been timed to start exactly ten years after the high-profile 2004 public defeat of the University of Cambridge’s plans to construct a similar primate laboratory.