NEWS RELEASE from the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics
26 March 2015
NOBEL LAUREATE J. M. COETZEE BACKS A NEW REPORT WHICH DESCRIBES ANIMAL
EXPERIMENTS AS MORALLY 'UNTHINKABLE'
More than a hundred and fifty academics, intellectuals, and writers, including
Nobel Laureate J. M. Coetzee, have backed a new report calling for the de-normalisation
of animal experimentation. Titled 'Normalising the Unthinkable', the
report is the result of a working party of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics.
Other signatories to the report include the Rt Revd John Pritchard, former
Bishop of Oxford, Professor Keith Ward of Oxford University, Professor Stanley
Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School, and Professor Conor Gearty of the London
School of Economics.
The report finds that 'The deliberate and routine abuse of innocent, sentient
animals involving harm, pain, suffering, stressful confinement, manipulation,
trade, and death should be unthinkable. Yet animal experimentation is just that:
the 'normalisation of the unthinkable'. 'It is estimated that 115.3
million animals are used in experiments worldwide per annum. In terms of harm,
pain, suffering, and death, this constitutes one of the major moral issues of
Comprised of 20 leading ethicists and scientists, the working party concluded
that animal experiments are both morally and scientifically flawed. The report
of more than 50,000 words is probably the most comprehensive critique of animal
experiments ever published.
Commissioned by the BUAV and Cruelty Free International as an independent
ethical review, members of the working party are keen to point out that the BUAV
in no way influenced its conclusions.
'The moral arguments in favour of animal testing really don't hold water' says
Professor Andrew Linzey, co-editor of the report and a theologian at Oxford
University. 'We have looked at the central arguments in official reports
and found them wanting. If any of them were morally valid, they would also
justify experiments on human beings.'
The report concludes that the 'normalisation' of animal experiments:
· flies in the face of what is now known about the extent and range of how
animals can be harmed. The issue of the complexity of animal awareness,
especially animal sentience (the capacity to experience pain and pleasure),
cannot be ignored. Unlike our forebears, we now know, as reasonably as we can
know of humans, that animals (notably, mammals, birds, and reptiles) experience
not only pain, but also shock, fear, foreboding, trauma, anxiety, stress,
distress, anticipation, and terror.
· is based on the discredited idea that animals are just tools for human use,
means to human ends, fungible items, and commodities who can be treated and
dispensed with as humans think fit.
· is challenged by new moral thinking which holds that sentient beings are not
just things, objects, machines, or tools, but have value in themselves and
· is augmented by a range of regulations and controls, which in reality do very
little to protect animals and indeed often do the reverse.
· is justified by the oft-repeated assertion that human interest requires such
experiments, whereas it has to be questioned whether humans are ever benefited
by the abuse of animals.
BUAV and Cruelty Free International CEO, Michelle Thew, said: 'We greatly
welcome this new report, which should spur on new ethical thinking about animals
and question some of the lazy assumptions about how animal research benefits
humans. This independent report is a milestone in ethical thinking about animals
and puts the ethics of animal research back on the agenda.'
Academics are invited to debate the report at a special Summer School on the
Ethics of Using Animals in Research at Oxford on 26-29 July 2015. Details
about the Summer School can be found here <http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/what-we-do/summer-school-2015/>.
The full report can be found here <http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Normalising-the-Unthinkable-Report.pdf>.
The executive summary can be found here <http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/Normalising-the-Unthinkable-Summary.pdf>.
The full list of signatories can be found here <http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/wpcms/wp-content/uploads/List-of-Signatures.pdf>.
Notes to editors
* The Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, founded in 2006 by its director
Professor Andrew Linzey, is an independent Centre with the aim of pioneering
ethical perspectives on animals through academic research, teaching and
publication. The Centre has more than 90 Fellows drawn from a variety of
academic disciplines from throughout the world. See
· The Centre is an independent think
tank, and is not under the aegis, control, or sanction of the University of
· Founded in 1898, the BUAV is the
world's leading organisation working to create a world where nobody wants or
believes we need to experiment on animals.
· Established by the BUAV, Cruelty
Free International is the leading organisation working to end animal testing for
consumer products worldwide.