So far 24 university debating societies participating in The Great Animal Research Debate have rejected the motion “This house would ban animal research”, with approximately 4 in 5 students voting against a ban (1,163 of 1,430 votes). No debating society has yet declared a win for the motion.
The event, which took place from 14-17 October to coincide with National Biology Week, was organised to foster greater transparency and understanding and allow people to come to an informed decision on the issue.
Many of the debates, including those at University College London, the University of Nottingham and University of Liverpool, were streamed live over the internet to allow the general public as well as students to hear views for and against.
Some of the world’s leading university debaters took part, along with guest speakers on both sides of the argument involved in the wider discussion on animal rights and animal research.
Alexander Cavell, debate programmes coordinator for International Debate Education Association UK, one of the event’s organisers, said it was “delighted” so many young people took part.
“The debaters framed their cases carefully, and their arguments on the scientific and moral issues touched on by the motion were sensitive while also being accessible and engaging,” he said.
Wendy Jarrett, chief executive of co-organiser Understanding Animal Research, added: “The debates were a fantastic chance for many students to be introduced to this difficult issue. I hope many will take the time to research the subject further and reflect on what they heard during the debates.”
The event was endorsed by a raft of MPs, medical research charities and advocacy organisations involved in policy making, science education, medical and biological research and the search for alternatives to the use of animals in scientific research.
However, Dan Lyons, chief executive of the Centre for Animals and Social Justice told Times Higher Education he was disappointed that the debate had not “allowed for honest disagreement”.
He claimed by having a single simplistic motion, the debates channelled participants into casting a vote which would present animal testing in a favourable light.
The event did not allow for a debate around the differences between types of research, which can vary enormously in terms both of medical outcomes and the suffering inflicted upon animals, he said.
“Public tolerance of some limited animal experimentation in the short term does not mean support for everything that is currently being done to animals in laboratories,” he said. “Let’s have this debate on an even keel instead of hiding behind propaganda and spin.”