In June 2018, several members of AnNex flew to the beautiful city of Vienna to take part in the 14th Congress of the European Society for Agricultural and Food Ethics (EurSafe) with a workshop on animal research and the question of harm benefit assessment.
EurSafe is an international organisation which, as the name implies, focuses on the social and ethical issues raised by food production, consumption and agriculture. However, due to its interdisciplinary nature, which attracts animal scientists, vets, social scientists and philosophers, EurSafe has become a de facto home for scholars working on animal and veterinary ethics. As in previous years, EurSafe 2018 had a lively stream of presentations on the topic of animal research.
New this year was a whole workshop specifically devoted to animal research and the question of harm benefit assessment. Contributors were asked to consider: ‘Should ethics review be public deliberation or an expert evaluation mechanism?’
The Nottingham based AnNex team co-authored a presentation designed to encourage participants to step back and ask more fundamental questions. For example: Why should publics or stakeholders be involved in animal research at all? How realistic are our hopes of what this will achieve? Do European countries have different assumptions about the relationship between publics, science and democracy?
We argued that discussion about these challenging questions is necessary, if we are to understand and advance the openness agenda. We also showed how Nexus thinking is needed, if we are to respond to recent policy initiatives, including the UK Animals Science Committee report on Harm-Benefit Assessment (chaired by Gail Davies), which questions how best to identify societal concerns.
Our talk generated heated and constructive debate in a very hot Vienna, and provided a fantastic opportunity for us to consider animal research and publics from a wider European perspective. The food (especially the cake) wasn’t bad either.