Pro-Test 10 Year Anniversary
Today (25th February 2016) is the 10-year anniversary of Pro-Test, a rally that saw students and academics stand up to animal rights extremism at the University of Oxford.
Ten years ago today animal rights extremists had created a climate of fear amongst students and academics in the UK due to the use of arson, bomb threats, and harassment. In January 2004 the University of Cambridge shelved plans to build a multi-million pound primate facility due to SPEAC (Stop Primate Experimentation at Cambridge) and the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence. Several month later plans to build a new biomedical facility the University of Oxford were halted due to campaigning from SPEAC, under the new name SPEAK.
Animal rights extremism peaked in October 2004 when Animal Rights Militia (ARM) and their Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) campaign, against a family-run guinea pig breeder, dug up and stole the remains of Gladys Hammond, mother-in-law of one of the owners.
In July 2005 a device containing approximately 3 gallons of gasoline was set off inside the student-run boathouses at the University of Oxford causing approximately £500,000 worth of damages and over the next six months more bombs are found at the University whilst students are harassed by animal rights activists with megaphones.
In January 2006, 16-year-old Laurie Pycroft was walking through Oxford city centre when he spotted an animal rights demonstration calling for construction of the new Oxford animal laboratory to be halted. Laurie bought a pen and a piece of card and stood by the demonstration holding a sign saying “Support Progress – Build the Oxford Lab!” Laurie’s actions caught the attention of a group of University of Oxford students and together they helped organise the first Pro-Test rally. The demonstration was planned for the same day as SPEAK’s national animal rights march in Oxford. On 25th February 2006 the Pro-Test rally took place with nearly 1,000 supporters turning out compared with little over 200 for the SPEAK march.
Laurie was thrust into the limelight for his courage to stand up to activists and since the rally there has been a marked drop in animal rights extremism in the UK, with many activists receiving lengthy prison sentences. The Oxford lab opened in 2008 and animal research continues to remain a vital component of biomedical research. Such research at the lab includes the discovery of a protein which can reverse arthritis; slowing the progression of a degenerative eye disease; and looking at how zebrafish could hold the key to protecting against and treating heart damage.
The Pro-Test rally marked a turning point for animal rights extremism in the UK and what once felt like a climate of fear surrounding the discussion of animal research has led to an environment where scientists and academics feel safe discussing their work. In 2014 the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research was launched, including the University of Oxford and nearly 100 other biomedical institutions in the UK as signatories.
So congratulations to Laurie, congratulations to Pro-Test and here’s to another 10 years of openness and public engagement surrounding animal research.
Can you spot UAR Chief Executive, Wendy Jarrett in the above photo?