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Trinity Term 2009
This term's talks gave an interesting insight into the work being done by animal protection organisations nationally and internationally.
30 April - Angela Walder on "Research Animals: Directional Change in the RSPCA"
One of 25 Trustees responsible for formulating RSPCA policy, Angela has been instrumental in bringing about a shift in the organisation to a more radical stance on vivisection. At its last AGM, her amended motion to the effect that no species capable of feeling pain should be subject to experimentation was passed unanimously. Her long career in animal protection began following her own experiences of working in cancer research, where she was shocked to find that animal researchers - even if their work involves a severe dispution of an animal's physiology - do not have to have a veterinary or medical qualification. Among her past activities was a stint with the Daily Mirror, investigating the use of stolen pets in vivisection laboratories. In her view, there had been little real progress since 1976, when lab animal welfare really became an issue and a new bill was first mooted. In order to achieve change, it was necessary to get across to the public the dangers of animal research for human health. For this reason, she was pushing the RSPCA to challenge the Charities Commission ruling of 1932 which prevents charities from campaigning against vivisection (a precedent had already been set by the patient safety organisation "Safer Medicines Campaign"). The campaign, she said, needed to become "more cerebral and less emotional". At the ensuing discussion, it was suggested that much could be achieved by "the better scientists talking to the better journalists".
14 May - Sir David Madden on the proposed "Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare"
Since retiring from the diplomatic service, Sir David has put the skills and experience gained in the roles of British Ambassador to Greece and High Commissioner of Cyprus at the disposal of international animal welfare organisations WSPA, the Brooke charity and the Eurogroup for Animals. In particular, he has been involved in the development and promotion of the UDAW, for which WSPA acts as secretariat. The aim of this initiative, he explained, was to establish an agreed set of global general principles - similar to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights - recognising the importance of animal sentience. Its approach was essentially an anthropocentric one, stressing the positive impact of better animal care on human health, social development, poverty and hunger reduction, disaster management and environmental sustainability, with reference to the Millennium Development Goals agreed by the UN. In Sir David's view, however, the pragmatism of the campaign and its use of existing mechanisms and recognised concepts such as the "five freedoms" and the "3Rs" was one of its strengths. Also conducive to its success was the fact that it was consensual rather than didactic, evolving incrementally through "bottom-up", international collaboration. The UDAW had already obtained the support of a growing list of governments and veterinary associations from both developing and developed countries, and, significantly, the EU. The next step was to get it on the G77 agenda, with the ultimate aim of adoption by the UN General Assembly. This was clearly not an easy task, but Sir David cited the development of the EU since the Second World War as an example of how progress can be made through institutions, and the value of having an overarching vision. In answer to the criticism that the UDAW was non-mandatory and therefore had no teeth, he argued that such agreements acquire moral authority over the years, and that in time, a monitoring body might be set up along the lines of the Human Rights Commission.
For more information on the UDAW, see www.udaw.org
Other events at Oxford:
21 May - Debate at the Oxford Union: "This House regrets the founding of the Oxford laboratory"
The motion was proposed by Andre Menache (Chief Executive Officer of Antidote Europe) and Alistair Currie (Research and Campaigns Co-ordinator for PETA in the UK), and opposed by Simon Festing (Executive Director of Understanding Animals in Science) and John Stein (Professor of Physiology at Oxford University). Before the debate began, the President of the Union announced that the dinner laid on by the Union for its guests that evening had been a wholly vegan event - a Union first (and, let's hope, a precedent) which received an encouraging round of applause from the House. The four main speeches which followed can be read here. The motion was defeated by 148 votes to 76.
5 June - Student fundraising stunt for non-animal research
A crowd of well-wishers crammed into the barbers on Oxford High Street to witness the heroic Ellie Hale of St Hughes College having her head shaved for Against Breast Cancer (www.aabc.org.uk), an Oxford-based charity which funds a ground-breaking research programme based on human tissue rather than animal models. Her appeal was conceived as an alternative to the Race for Life events organised by Cancer Research UK, which already makes more money than any other charity in the UK. According to Ellie: "It's hard to believe that, given the expenditure on cancer research, so little has been achieved and this surely proves that they've got to start looking in another direction. In the meantime, supporting charities such as Against Breast Cancer will hopefully redress the imbalance in funding and enable more impressive discoveries to be made through ethical methods." To sponsor Ellie, go to www.justgiving.com/shave_ellie
11 June - JM Coetzee in Oxford
A rare opportunity to hear Nobel Prize winning novelist and VERO patron JM Coetzee reading from his works at Oxford. To coincide with this visit, VERO member Dr Matthew Simpson published an article on Coetzee's work in the Oxford Magazine: Show
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View Public meeting held on November 28th 2006