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University Sermon on Animal Experimentation

27th February 2008

The Director of the Centre, Professor Andrew Linzey was invited by the Vice-Chancellor to give the University Sermon on 17th February, 2008. Professor Linzey chose to speak on the issue of animal experimentation, which has been the subject of continuing controversy at Oxford. After touching on the history of the controversy at Oxford stretching back to the last years of the nineteenth century, and outlining the ethical and theological objections against using animals, Professor Linzey continued: “Despite my viewpoint, I have been reluctant to comment on the latest round of controversy at Oxford. The reason is that I have not wanted to appear to give succour or support to those who pursue violent tactics or intimidation. Some have been surprised that I wouldn’t join the protests, but they shouldn’t be. If I cannot accept the utilitarian argument of researchers that the end justifies the means, by the same standard, I cannot accept the utilitarian argument of violent protestors that their intended ends justify their means”.

He continued: “It is especially lamentable that people who are committed to a philosophy of respect for all sentient beings (as I am myself) should think that violence, coercion, and personal abuse is justifiable against human sentient beings. Violence is not just counterproductive or bad tactics; it is morally self-contradictory.” Professor Linzey concluded with “a very modest proposal” for “rational dialogue without personal or political agendas”: “If such dialogue cannot take place within universities, where else can it be had? … The animal issue is not going to go away. Over the last 40 years, we have slowly but surely experienced a paradigm shift: a move away from the old idea that animals are just things, machines, tools, commodities, resources here for us to the idea that animals have intrinsic value, dignity, and rights …Oxford may be wary of this new paradigm, even uneasy with its own anti-vivisection history, but my hope is that it may yet find an appropriate and positive response to the growing ethical sensitivity to animals – a sensitivity which it has, in part, helped to inspire and pioneer.” The full text of the sermon appears on the website of the University Church here.