Many scientists are more than a little skeptical of the Green Party. But, it is difficult to not welcome their announcement that they would raise science spending to 1% of GDP.
So, if elected, the Green Party would greatly raise spending on science. Sadly, they would also destroy vast areas of science at the same time, and essentially force many, if not most, biologists to shut up shop and find jobs in other countries.
Here is the problem: sections AR414 and AR415 of their official policy documents:
AR414 The Green Party would ban all experimentation and research which harms animals, including harmful procedures used to obtain animal-derived materials. ‘Harmful’ is defined in this context as ‘having the potential to cause pain, suffering, distress, lasting harm or death in animals, except where it is designed to benefit the individual animals concerned
AR415 Government research funds will be transferred from animal tests to non-animal technologies, including epidemiology, computer models, micro-dosing, imaging, DNA chips, microfluidics chips and the use of human tissue. Much greater use will be made of epidemiological evidence and clinical data. Greens would also fund more research into prevention of disease, looking at diet, environment, family history and lifestyle.
These policies would essentially destroy biology in Britain.
Like it or not, biology as a discipline cannot function without experiments that harm animals.
Take something the Greens should care about: ocean acidification.
How are we to possibly find out the impacts of ocean acidification on marine life without carrying out experiments that will harm animals?
The experiments required are relatively straightforward. Ramp up the acidification level of some water and chuck in some zooplankton, or other marine animal, and see how much they get on. And by getting on we mean “see how much they suffer”. And there is a good chance they will suffer, and that’s the whole point. Section AR414 will mean we cannot possibly study the effects of ocean acidification.
Of course, the Green Party talks of “computer models”, and other things as replacements for experiments which will harm animals. This again is complete nonsense. I’m a biological modeller. So I should have a good word to say about biological models, and I do. But these models are almost worthless without experimental evidence to base them on.
How then can we possibly model the impacts of climate change on life forms if the Green Party takes over? We cannot. What we need to know here is relatively simple (in theory, but not in practise). Temperatures will rise, ocean acidification will worsen. Will this result in better or worse conditions for particular species?
How can we understand these impacts without experiments?
Let me draw attention to a very poorly understood area of ecology: why things die. Biologists are actually quite good at understanding why things live. They can often tell you the rate at which organisms can grow, ingest food, respire, or lay eggs. Death is another matter altogether. Here are understanding is often risible.
It may at times be risible, but the door is open for a new generation of biologists to provide a fuller understanding of why things die. And this will, inevitability, involve experiments that require animals to die. There is no better way to understand death.
If you are in the business of trying to figure out the impacts of climate change on life on earth, then you probably should be very wary of voting for a political party that will shut the whole enterprise down.