David Priestman, Ph.D. is a Clinical Geneticist at the University of Oxford who uses mice in his research. At the time of the interview, he was a member of the now inactive Oxford-based animal research advocacy group, Pro-Test. You can find out more about David on his Oxford personnel page.
David met us in the streets of Oxford. I was grateful that he, Laurie and Tom (of Pro-Test) agreed to interviews, because my requests for interviews were denied by the major US laboratories and pro-animal research groups in the US.
It’s not surprising that we learn and change by talking with people who inspire us, whose ideas reflect our own or who can lead us forward in a new direction that makes us feel more wholly ourselves. However, I found there is also value in talking with people who disagree with us. Not what has come to be normal in America–polarized yelling–but really being open to and talking with someone who, as in this case, does or believes something we disagree with and cannot understand.
I couldn’t have articulated this beforehand because I only realized it afterwards, but I went into my interview with David with a sense that he was going to be some kind of a monster. It wasn’t based on anything I knew about him specifically, but rather a generalized notion of what an animal experimenter would be like. It’s embarrassing to admit and he was quite the opposite. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but something closer to a caricature of a mad scientist whose sole interest was profit, with a complete inability to concede any amount of compassion towards animals. However, something happens when the other becomes this specific person. I couldn’t maintain my sweeping perceived distance between us when I was standing in front of him, because my intention was to listen and try to understand his point of view. He believes in his research because he wants to help people. I know that sounds obvious, but a part of me didn’t know that could be true. Because I find his means so objectionable, I assumed his whole being would be that way.
David supports the current UK restriction against using chimpanzees in medical research, which is based on moral objections. I appreciated that David was multidimensional and spent the time to speak with me.
YOU CAN FIND ALL OF DAVID PRIESTMAN’S INTERVIEWS HERE. This collection may increase as I upload more content to this site.