A Simple Planning Issue, or a Turning Point in the Ethics of Animal Research?

By Charles Arthur Technology Editor | The Independent (London, England), November 27, 2002 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Simple Planning Issue, or a Turning Point in the Ethics of Animal Research?


Charles Arthur Technology Editor, The Independent (London, England)


"CAMBRIDGE IS a wonderful place to come and have a demonstration," said Reverend Dharmavidya, a friendly, beaming bear of a man among several other Buddhists watching proceedings yesterday in a Cambridge council chamber. "Because if you want to bring attention to an issue, you want to do it in a place where there's plenty of people watching."

The issue to which he was referring to was a formal planning review of an application by Cambridge University to redevelop 307 Huntingdon Road, at present a collection of farm buildings on a trunk road in the west of the city. It might sound dull but the reality certainly is not.

The university wants to establish a laboratory complex for research on certain primates, most likely marmosets and macaques, which are among our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom. To understand neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, scientists want to examine brain function, which inevitably involves vivisection.

The plans have inflamed the sensibilities of animal rights protesters and brought into the open the conflict between them and the scientists who believe such research is essential. Politicians often talk about "having a proper debate"on issues such as genetically modified food and crops, embryology, and animal rights. You might wonder quite where the debate is meant to take place and reach a resolution. The answer is: in places like Cambridge's anonymous council offices, with its Identikit tables and chairs. When it comes to deciding our society's ethos, this is what Americans would call the place where the rubber hits the road.

And it is done through, of all things, the planning laws, which decide issues such as road, town and city planning, mobile phone use, and airport expansion, equally hot topics.

Here, the focus is on animals and the vivisection proposal. "It hits a raw nerve with us, and for many other religious communities," said Dharmavidya (formerly known as David Brazier), who has travelled down from Leicester where he lives in a Buddhist commune. "It moves the boundary closer to experimenting on humans. And we don't draw a hard line between human life and the rest of creation. This shifts the ethical boundary in the wrong direction." He was hoping his willingness to protest might mean he was called as a witness by South Cambridgeshire District Council, which is opposing the application. Not on any ethical grounds (the council insists it is agnostic on this), but because police believe the inevitable animal rights protests surrounding the centre would disrupt traffic and endanger protesters and drivers. The council also fears that such protests could harm the city's valuable tourist trade.

The protests would also clog the city centre where someone dawdling on a zebra crossing can briefly induce gridlock.

The university is pushing hard for the redevelopment of the site, which would accommodate a 10,000sq m laboratory. It insists the work is important, and in the national interest. It is supported by by Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science minister, who said the centre was "doing major research in a key area of science". He added: "I think it is very important that this research is done. It also happens to be done by probably the best people in this country to do it."

Its lawyer at the inquiry, Robin Purchas QC, suggested in his opening remarks that beginning primate experiments at the site would not entail a change of use. The site, he said, had been used for animal research "since the early Fifties". This nonplussed the university's spokeswoman, who said that "it hasn't been used for a year; before that, it was just offices".

It doesn't look like offices; or anything much. As you drive west out of Cambridge, you pass a farm - operated by the university - then a collection of farm-like constructions, in ageing brown buildings.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Simple Planning Issue, or a Turning Point in the Ethics of Animal Research?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?