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Angry black cat staring

I am angry

Written by FRAME CEO Celean Camp 

I’ve been ruminating a lot on a talk I heard at this week’s #ACEVOfest from fellow CEO Mark Russell. Mark related how when he started at The Children’s Society a major report had just come out about failings in child protection and his comms team had suggested a quote that he was “disappointed” by the findings of the report. His reply was that he wasn’t disappointed, he was absolutely furious. He went on to explain that he sees fuelling and channelling that anger as a key part of his role, and an essential part of third sector leadership.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not very comfortable with anger and conflict when I am a party to it (yes I’ve unpacked that in therapy and no, it doesn’t make it any easier 😂). I’ve always been serious, thoughtful, reasonable, diplomatic, balanced. I’m a trained mediator, for goodness’ sake. In the political space I find highly emotional arguments polarising, divisive; at best lacking credibility and at worst actively counter productive to genuine progress. I don’t believe outcomes in which one side ‘wins’ and one ‘loses’ form a good basis for solving social problems, usually leading instead to the ‘policy pendulum’ where we swing backwards and forwards between positions in a never-ending cycle of blame.

Fingers pointing at the others

And of course, these are many of the characteristics that attracted me to FRAME. One of our guiding principles is that we want to be “un-dismissable” or as a colleague put it “so disgustingly reasonable that not putting our suggestions into effect would be ridiculous”. We focus on the achievable actions which remove barriers and reduce the size of the problem until it reaches a tipping point and gains its own momentum. You get the idea.

But I started to wonder whether, in striving to be so constructive and pragmatic, I’ve lost touch with my own anger about animal research. And, like Mark, I am furious so buckle up…

Why I’m angry…

  • I am angry about the complacency with which UK government officials, some scientists, and commentators fall back on the safeguards in ASPA as ‘proof’ that animals are never used in research unless there is no alternative, when we know there are many instances where the system doesn’t work.
  • I’m angry that around the world animals are still used to test cosmetic safety despite more than a decade of evidence and experience that this is not required.
  • I’m angry that funders continue to throw good money after bad in some disease areas, chasing ‘better’ animal models instead of having the foresight to take a step back and incentivise emergent technologies with greater long term potential.
  • I’m angry that the current UK legislation excludes animal research from the transparency requirements of the Freedom of Information Act, denying the public full disclosure about how our research funding is being spent.
  • I’m angry that the academic funding and publishing systems are so broken and self serving that they create a state of inertia and make change so difficult.
  • I’m angry that research intensive establishments have so far not been brave enough to explore what a long term strategy for transitioning to human-centred medical research could look like.
  • I’m angry at the idiotic bureaucracy that has legislation placing the replacement of animals before any other concern, but a regulatory system advised by a committee (the ASC) which by its own admission exists only to look at how animals are used in science — not whether they should be — leaving  the question of replacement (how we do it, how quickly we want to get there, who is responsible and what do they need) in a policy vacuum.
  • And I’m angry that despite everyone, everywhere – including those working in animal research – agreeing that they don’t want it to exist, the government refuses to commit to an aspiration that it should end.

As a leader (and a middle aged woman trying to control her blood pressure) I tend to concern myself more with the emotions of others rather than my own so it’s been an interesting challenge to reconnect with the passion that drives me. I’m mad that these issues still exist. I’m infuriated at the lack of vision and the pace of progress. Don’t ever mistake my, or FRAME’s, moderate approach and ‘disgustingly reasonable’ tone with acceptance of the status quo.

We are persistently radical and radically persistent in our mission, and we will achieve change.

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