GPEW Conference Day 2: First a tragedy, then a farce
Lots of policy to talk about on day 2 of the conference, some of which I’ve mentioned already, some which I haven’t. We began with two more emergency motions, both fairly uncontroversial. First up, Turkey, and the systematic attempts of the Turkish government to shut down political expressions of Kurdish nationalism. I didn’t quite catch what the motion actually wanted us to do, but it certainly offered an expression of solidarity with Kurdish community here in the UK over the banning of the, to the best of my knowledge, peaceful Kurdish nationalist Democratic Society Party (DTP) and the arresting of many of it’s members.I’ll be honest here and admit I don’t know an awful lot about Turkish politics but banning political parties an arresting the leaders isn’t generally something I’m too keen on. The motion passed nem con.
Next up we had biofuels and with one objection agreed to back actionaid’s campaign to urge the EU not to increase targets for biofuels. I’ll let you read the report for yourselves but in essence the demand for biofuels is driving a global human tragedy as food production in developing nations competes with fuel here.
So emergency motions over till Sunday, more of which soon, we’re onto policy again and in re-reading my notes it seems not a lot actually passed. We voted to refer back for further work a motion on animals and climate change, which “expands on the rationale for existing policies relating to agriculture and climate change” and as such required no consequential action to my mind. We referred back a proposal for a universal health service for companion animals, it was felt such a service shouldn’t come from general taxation, and passed policy on parental leave and citizens’ pension.
And that was it till we got to two motions on animal testing. Having been discussed in workshop together and agreed to be mutually contradictory it was decided to take both together. The first, C09 in the agenda, would have stripped the policy to a single sentence. Simple and unambiguous, whatever your views, our policy would simply be to oppose all research which harms animals on ethical grounds. Now, I don’t actually subscribe to that view myself, though I think a discussion of why really deserves it’s own post, but it’s a reasonable position and one I’d prefer over current policy. C10, by contrast was in three sections and ran to, perhaps, half an A4 page of text. C10 also made the far less justifiable claim that animal testing should be opposed on scientific grounds, as, unfortunately, does current GPEW policy. According to C10 animals are “not an accurate model for human health” and “misleading results can both increase risks and hamper medical progress”. Well, misleading results, by definition I suppose, can hamper progress but I’m not sure you’ll find many medical researchers who would agree that that is the result of animal testing. C10 also claims that “alternatives are often not used”. I’d like to see some evidence for that claim, but frankly I don’t think the proposers would be able to provide it.
There is a case to be made that the advantages to human, and animal, health that come from animal testing can’t be justified morally, but there really isn’t a case that we can simply replace animal testing with other alternatives for no cost, let alone that medical research is currently being hampered using animals.
Anyway, as of this moment, we don’t know whether either of these motions will pass. After some debate there was a motion from the floor to refer back, nothing happened and there was no chance to second that call. There was then a request that the motions not be put at all. That was seconded, I believe, though SOC then ruled they couldn’t not be put as we were already discussing them. We did eventually get a chance to vote on the referral back and with 41 in favour and 40 opposed it looked like this debate would be put off will the Autumn. That was until the chair decided the result was too close to call, even though it had been called, and there wasn’t time for a recount (of 81 people), so we’d adjourn till Sunday and reopen the debate then. A somewhat farcical end to a previously good morning.
Workshops in the afternoon mainly, but I’ll leave the discussion of those till later as I only attended the health paper discussion and I’ll have a fuller post on that tomorrow.