Brock prof hosts conference, calls for moratorium on animal testing

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Last week, the Brock University Department of Sociology, led by Professor John Sorenson, called for a university-wide moratorium on animal testing.

Sorenson was outraged by pictures on the psychology department’s website showing rats housed in cramped plastic containers.

“Everyone I know " students and faculty members " who has seen the photographs was offended by them,” he said. “Most people don’t like to see images of animals in distress. That’s one reason why [animal testing] is being kept so secretive; if people actually see what’s being done to animals, they’ll object.”

Brock University administration declined to comment.

Sorenson organized conferences that took place last Thursday and Friday. Various academics from all over North America attended and presented papers on their respective research.

Speaker David Sztybel, who has criticized the Canadian Council on Animal Care, an organization whose approval is required for animal research at Brock, said the CCAC’s guidelines are vague and permissive and that its only effective purpose is giving legitimacy to the mistreatment of animals.

Sorenson has addressed animal testing at Brock before.

“This is the third time I’ve had a conference like this,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, the university should be promoting these sorts of events, just as they would any other academic conference.”

The Brock senate voted to receive the motion for a moratorium, though Sorenson dismissed the vote as a hollow gesture.

He has tried but failed to join the committee overseeing animal use at Brock. He said the committee is purposefully homogeneous to preserve the status quo.

Sorenson said existing and emerging technologies, like artificial human skin or digital frogs for dissection, can replicate animal testing.

Sorenson recalls the experience of a previous committee member, who wasn’t an animal rights advocate.

“[He] was upset by things that he saw going on; he voiced his concerns and got into a screaming argument with other people on the committee " the next day he was off.

“That indicates how open they are to any kind of criticism, however moderate.”

Sorenson encouraged others to speak their mind about animal testing.

“If people in other departments and other universities are concerned about these issues " and they should be " they should find out what’s going on and speak up.”

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