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Public Debates on Animal Research

Question to be addressed: Do institutions invite people in for debates? How do they steer the discussions and prevent it getting out of control? Do people ask questions?

In particular, the chair had been approached to conduct a debate with Year 13 students (18 years old) and was keen to share other people’s experience and thoughts about how to proceed.

Suggestions included:

  • Contacting the University’s student debating society
  • Perhaps not present it as a polarised ‘for or against’ argument, but allow them to find their own position within a spectrum of opinions, according to what level they find acceptable (e.g. primates versus rodents)
  • Get people in from different organisations, such as RSPCA, UAR, FRAME (this is done already, including at Cardiff University). Edinburgh University uses help from UAR for their summer students.
  • Ethics talks, comparing lab animal welfare to issues with pet and farm animal welfare.
  • Aim to get them to think , not necessarily give answers
  • If you do try to gauge their response, then ask questions that encourage a range of answers (not ‘yes’ or ‘no’)
  • Use ‘Socrative’ – a free app on phones that you can use to ask questions.
  • Ask where they get their ideas and information from currently.
  • Ask them to write down their current feelings on a piece of paper; then look again at the end, to see if they have altered.
  • To present questions/opinions, without anyone giving their own opinion, have a pass the parcel with layers with a quote in each layer that they have to read out (and sweets), to stimulate discussion
  • Start with standard ethics dilemmas to get them in the mood for thinking about how moral decisions are made

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