Which side are they on?

Shami Chakrabarti is known to most people as the director of Liberty, the civil rights organization. She has never stood as an MP but imagine the public uproar were she to announce she was a UKIP candidate at the forthcoming election.

Something very similar in principle that occurred last year, however, registered zero on the shock scale. Not a single voice of discontent was heard when Michelle Thew – pictured here – was chosen as the Labour candidate for the seat of Bexhill and Battle.

It’s a safe Tory seat and she is unlikely to win it but when I discovered she was a Labour candidate I was astonished. For many years she has been chief executive of the British Union Against Vivisection (BUAV) which campaigns for an end to animal experiments.

Why on earth would anyone who has fought for laboratory animals and animal rights want to represent a party that stands for exactly the opposite? That’s where the comparison with Chakrabarti is valid. In fact it’s worse because at least UKIP makes some pretense of believing in human freedom, whereas for Labour the idea that animals have rights doesn’t even exist.

A few weeks ago the party made some pledges on animal welfare including ending the badger cull, retaining the Hunting Act and banning wild animals in circuses but mention of vivisection was conspicuous by its absence.

A lengthy examination of Labour’s record on animal issues will have to wait for another blog post but for now all I will say is its record is appalling. Before the 1997 election all sorts of promises were made to reduce and eventually end vivisection, especially alcohol, weapons and tobacco testing, but none were kept. Instead the number of animals used increased by about one million during the 13 years the party was in government.

It went even further in propping up the infamous Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratory and criminalising those who campaigned against vivisection. Draconian laws were introduced which made minor public order offences and even civil torts punishable by up to five years imprisonment if they harmed a contract between a laboratory and its customers or suppliers. Conspiracy to blackmail was also used to punish activists with very long sentences.

The Labour government in effect declared war on anti-vivisectionists and here is the boss of one of the largest and oldest organizations that’s meant to stand up for laboratory animals joining its side.

In one respect this leaves me incredulous but in another it makes perfect sense. When I highlighted the story on Facebook, someone commented that it came as no surprise and it wouldn’t have been a shock even if Thew had gone over to Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation.

That just about sums up the cynicism of grassroots activists towards big national societies. And let’s face it, the BUAV does have a track record here. Way back in the eighties it cozied up to Labour and got badly let down when the party supported the 1986 Animal Scientific Procedures Act – the Vivisectors Charter.

Most campaigners I know see the likes of the BUAV as bureaucratic and out of touch, trying vainly to influence politicians and capitalists instead of using their resources to fight vivisection in more direct and effective ways.

While it may come as little surprise to find out the boss of the BUAV has joined Labour, what about a hunt saboteur and vegan? Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North is both, I am told. I looked at his website and he mentions neither but does say he is a trustee and former chair of the League Against Cruel Sports and believes in “animal welfare”. The hunt sab and vegan claim was mentioned on Facebook after I posted a piece about the ineffectiveness of the Hunting Act.

Whether Williamson is vegan is in doubt then but Labour already has Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East since 2005 and a vegan You may ask how anyone who espouses veganism and animal rights can represent a party which in government would do all it can to support animal farming? The answer is although McCarthy is a dietary vegan, she doesn’t believe in animal rights at all. At last year’s Bristol Vegfest she said she approved of some animal experiments.

When asking how individuals who claim to care about animal suffering want to get elected on the platform of a party which will do so much to further it, we shouldn’t forget the capacity of people to delude themselves. Perhaps the likes of Thew and others really think they can make a difference? Their retort might be, well better I’m there able to do something and can speak out for defenceless animals rather than somebody who doesn’t care at all.

But in reality they will chewed up and spat out by the system and made to conform. In return they will have a lavish income – even a backbench MP’s salary is nearly £70,000 per year – and the potential for even more if they become a minister or junior minister.

Like Joan Ruddock of CND who became an MP in the eighties when Labour’s policy was unilateral nuclear disarmament but was a minister when that policy was abolished and during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they will have to renounce their principles and be no more than a career politician whose job it is to maintain a system which mercilessly exploits animals and humans and is destroying the planet.

That was World Week that was

World Week of Action For Animals in Laboratories finished yesterday, 26 April. The wwaail.org website listed a number of events, most of them in the USA and connected to the No New Animal Lab campaign which is trying to stop the building of a $124 million animal laboratory at Washington University.

Saturday’s march drew hundreds of people and has been called “the largest grassroots animal liberation demo in the US in some time”. A report in The Seattle Times said: “500 animal-rights supporters marched across the University of Washington (UW) campus Saturday and temporarily blocked neighborhood streets.”

The following day saw many home demos against “key players” in the construction of the lab in Seattle. Home demos were outlawed in the UK in 2003 but they are still legal in America. There were also protests against the company building the lab, Skanska. One activist commented:

“In solidarity elsewhere (nationally and globally), activists had their own local office Skanska demos and office disruptions throughout the week.  On Friday, UW lost a significant lawsuit against the activists legal team for secretly voting to build the lab.  All of these combined factors electrified the mass protests onSaturday.  And this was all grassroots!

The cloak of fear and that has shrouded the US scene for over a decade was lifted this past week.  Comfort vegan lifestylism was replaced with hundreds taking the streets of Seattle and activists elsewhere demonstrating in solidarity.  I haven’t seen this level of enthusiasm
and mass action since the SHAC days.”

Skanska is also the corporation behind the building a new facility for AstraZeneca in Cambridge.  On Saturday a march in that city attracted about 300 people from all over the country. Cambridge University already uses 170,000 animals in cruel experiments every year and with planning approval for the new laboratory this looks set to rise steeply.

The march was organised by Cambridge AR, which is one of the oldest – if not the oldest – local group in the UK. Whether a sustained offensive will emerge from the protest remains to be seen. Since SPEAK failed to stop the building of a animal research lab in Oxford eight years ago, there have been a number of campaigns against universities who use animals, including Leicester, Cardiff and Newcastle, but none have lasted for more than a few months.

Finally I’d like to give a big shout out to Merseyside AR who organised a whole week of events including street stalls, a demo against Liverpool University and a day of action against charities who fund animal experiments, such as British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK.

The university protest received good coverage in the Liverpool Echo who reported:

Merseyside Animals Rights group staged a protest after learning through a Freedom of Information request the university carried out 14,753 experiments on animals in 2014.

The group said the animals used included mice, rats, rabbits and other rodents, chicken, sheep, cattle, horses, zebra fish and trout. The animals were used for biological, medical and veterinary research.

In a statement activists said: “1,451 of these experiments were classed as severe in terms of the pain and suffering inflicted on the animals. These severe experiments all involved mice or rabbits. Most other experiments inflicted mild to moderate pain and suffering.”

The university was forced to defend itself and used the same old cliches about animal use being “essential” and ensuring: “The number used is minimised and that procedures, care routines and husbandry are refined to maximise welfare as far as possible. Liverpool’s facilities for animals involved in research are among the best in the UK.”

Well done to MARC for their week of action and for putting Liverpool University under the spotlight and forcing them to account for their despicable actions. This is exactly what they want to avoid. All vivisectors wish for is to be left alone to continue with their grisly work. They hate having to justify what they do because it is unjustifiable.

No one can deny that opposing vivisection in the UK has not been easy in recent years. The failure to stop the Oxford Lab and the survival of Huntingdon Life Sciences, together with media-orchestrated smear campaigns and repressive laws targeting anti-vivisectionists, has led to a decline in morale and the numbers of activists.

MARC’s successful week of action shows the best way back could be through local groups targeting laboratories in their areas. As ever, it is decentralised grassroots campaigning that offers the best way of rebuilding the animal rights movement.

Flashback: 25 April 1992 – the biggest anti-vivisection demo ever

On this day 23 years ago, thousands of people marched through central London to mark World Day for Laboratory Animals (WDLA). The event was organised by the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) who said: “This year we broke our own record for the largest anti-vivisection march ever as in the region of 23,000 people supported a good natured but noisy march to Earls Court.

NAVS’ giant inflatable beagle, Charlie, greeted the marchers and inside Earls Court was a massive 35 screen video wall playing films. Numerous stalls distributed information and sold merchandise and there was even a fashion show.

The rally was addressed by Jan Creamer of NAVS, representatives of overseas anti-vivisection groups, MPs, MEPs and celebrities. An incident occurred when a group of people called out for ALF Press Officer Robin Webb to speak. NAVS said: “No-one was interested in this self-indulgent and destructive minority, who were quickly ejected.”

In context: WDLA was established in 1979 and 24 April was chosen as it was the birthday of former NAVS president, Hugh Dowding. It quickly became the movement’s centrepiece and large marches took place throughout the eighties against Porton Down, Shamrock Farm, Hazelton, Wickham and other animal hellholes.

From 1990, NAVS held protests in London to maximise the turnout. That year 10,000 marched from the Little Brown Dog in Battersea Park. This increased to about 15,000 in 1991. Grassroots anti-vivisection was also on a roll as there were high profile ALF raids against breeders and laboratories such as Interfauna, Royal London Hospital and Boots.

The campaign against Boots the Chemist intensified following an inspection of its Nottingham laboratory by the Animal Liberation Investigation Unit. This led to the formation of London Boots Action Group (LBAG) and other anti-Boots groups. It was reported that 60 of their stores were being attacked by the ALF each month.

What happened next: 1993’s WDLA was slightly smaller at 20,000 and along the route of the march there was a sit down outside Boots, which was condemned by NAVS. Resentment towards grassroots campaigners had been simmering for some time as they had refused to let the ALF Supporters Group, the Animal Rights Coalition and LBAG have stalls at their fair. An “alternative fair” was set up instead.

In their magazine The Campaigner NAVS railed against the activists for asking to speak at the rally (“No-one has the right to speak at World Day”), for being “money grabbers” by having stalls in Hyde Park, and urged “people who do not care about the future of the World Day march to organise their own events.”

In ARC News, Neil Lea defended using World Day to make money as it was used for campaigns to save animals. He also said: “I am not against national groups in principle but against the way our three major national groups are presently run. Talking to other activists…I feel this the general feeling of the movement.”

Another WDLA march and rally was held in 1994 but numbers had declined to about 15,000. An “alternative fair’ took place and also a protest at Shamrock Farm primate breeders in East Sussex. Activists were heeding NAVS’ advice to organise their own protests.

In 1995 NAVS dropped the demonstration as “there were no new elements we could add…and that it could start to become stale.” Since then no WDLA demo has come anywhere near the numbers of the early nineties. Boots caved in to pressure and shut its laboratory down in 1995.

Green Party turns to dead activist to win votes from Labour

Several months ago an analysis I made of Barry Horne’s hunger strikes was severely criticised in certain quarters. You can find it by clicking on the vivisection tab. One of the allegations was I used his death to score cheap political points. In that case what can be said about the document pictured left? Entitled – replete with symbolic meaning – A CROSS FOR BARRY, it seeks to use his memory to promote a political party that he had nothing to do with while alive.

It first appeared on Ronnie Lee’s Facebook page with the statement: “On May 7th vote for a party without the blood of animals and of activists on their hands!” Then it was shared by Kevin White who is the Green candidate for Redditch. Ronnie and Kevin are veteran AR activists whom I’ve known for a very long time. I first met Ronnie in the eighties when he was ALF Press Officer.  At the time he wrote:

Any campaign which calls upon the government to do something for us, instead of us doing it for ourselves, only serves to increase the power, influence and apparent credibility of the state – and neither human nor animal liberation will be properly achieved until all governments and states are abolished.

Shortly afterwards he was sentenced to 10 years for ALF activities and decisively changed. On release he evinced a misanthropic view of the world. Anarchists believe that humans, while not always good, are social beings who can cooperate and build a society based on equality and justice. Ronnie’s view was diametrically different. In Arkangel magazine #3 he opined that “ordinary unenlightened people” were “dragging out their tiny meaningless lives, changing nothing, achieving nothing, merely taking up space in an already grossly overcrowded world.”

Just before the 2005 general election, Ronnie advocated voting Labour in case the Tories won and overturned the Hunting Act. Later on he became a staunch supporter of the Green Party. He’s now renounced his misanthropic beliefs and campaigns on social justice issues as well as for animal rights and veganism but he still holds an essentially pessimistic view of human nature.

In his one and only blog entry, “Greenprint for Animal Liberation”, he states: “it is a fundamental trait of humans in general to be passive and to not want to stand out from the crowd…Most human beings are fundamentally leader-followers, so the problem is that if there is no good guy (or gal!) for people to follow, most of them will inevitably follow the bad guy.”

Ronnie gives no evidence to back up his claim. It is easily refuted if one looks online at sites such as Indymedia, New Internationalist, Libcom or even Facebook and Twitter. There are millions of people fighting back across the globe but most of the time you hear nothing about this on mainstream news. Ronnie is guilty of taking the media at face value.

As an interesting anecdote, I debated anarchism v parliamentary campaigning with Ronnie and Kevin at an Animal Rights Gathering a few years ago. It was a Saturday evening and I recall Ronnie mentioning how people were too lazy to do anything except watch tv. On the way home I heard on the radio how a demonstration at Tottenham police station had turned into a riot and within days the country was convulsed by the biggest insurrection in living memory.

That potential for upheaval is always there. If we learn anything from history it should be that class conflict can be suppressed but it never goes away and we’ve seen plenty of examples of that over the past five years since the austerity policies of the coalition government have wreaked havoc on peoples’ lives.

Ronnie, however, clearly thinks people cannot organise and fight back themselves and instead need leaders and politicans. He pins all his hopes on the Green Party, which flies in the face of logic. He also emphasizes their commitment to “animal protection” as though that is one of their core principles. In reality the section of their 2010 election manifesto devoted to it was less than one page out of 48!

That document calls for  an immediate ban in “causing harm to animals (including but not only primates) in research, testing and education, and invest in the development of alternatives to animal experiments.” All well and good but where is the evidence they have the desire to implement such a policy?

Try and find any mention of vivisection or repression of anti-vivisectionists in any speech made by a prominent figure in the Green Party and you’ll have a long wait. Why was there no undertaking to repeal SOCPA s145/146 in the 2010 manifesto after it had been used for the previous five years? Will there be any such commitment in the coming election. Of course not! Will the abolition of animal testing be a precondition of entering into coalition with another party. Don’t be ridiculous!

The Green Party never has been a party of animal rights and never will be. It is about animal welfare – using animals in a kinder, gentler way. Some forms of animal exploitation could be outlawed, say the fur trade, badger culls and wild animals in circuses, but animals would remain mere commodities. How could it be different when the party accepts the capitalist system, albeit with a greener tinge.

Voting for the Green Party in the expectation of them bringing about animal liberation is like voting Labour for human liberation. The two just don’t go together.

Which brings us back to Barry Horne. He was an animal liberationist who believed fervently in direct action and grassroots campaigning, not party politics. Reading what he wrote, the  contempt he had for politicians of all parties is obvious.

Ater being arrested and receiving the longest ever sentence, he decided, rather than just rot in gaol, to use his incarceration to hold New Labour to account through the tried and tested tactic of the hunger strike.

Prior to Labour’s election under Tony Blair in 1997, lots of promises had been made on animal issues, especially vivisection. Barry wanted to test the government, to expose them to the glare of publicity and at the same time galvanise the movement into action against animal experimentation.

His hunger strikes proved beyond doubt that politicians – of all parties – are never to be trusted. It transpired that rather than curb vivisection, Labour was its resolute defender. The same would apply to other parties, including the Greens. If they ever came even close to power, they would renege on their promises too. This is, after all, a party whose membership elected a meat eater to be its leader.

We can have some idea of what a Green government might be like if we look at where they have been successful. Such examples are not easy to find in this country but an exception is Brighton where despite trumpeting calls for the living wage, they joined forces with the Tories on the council in attempting to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid workers, meaning some faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year. This led to them being denounced as: “F***ing Tories on bikes!”

When the Greens are in power, they are like other parties. How could it be any different? I wouldn’t trust Ronnie Lee, Kevin White, myself or anyone else with political power. Hierarchy always leads to inequality and exploitation.

Using Barry Horne as a way of garnering a few votes for a political party is a cheap and shoddy tactic. He believed in militant, confrontational campaigning and direct action against animal abuse industries. Yes his strategy of trying to involve the UK animal rights movement in all out war with the state never worked but to suppose the solution is to somehow try and emulate the state is naive and would be disastrous for animal rights itself.

Ronnie and Kevin have lost hope in the ability of people to bring about real change. In their view, because the animal rights movement failed to shut down HLS or the Oxford University lab, there is now no alternative to activists joining the political establishment and trying to use it for animal protection. This is the same establishment which is busy curtailing human rights and attacking the most vulnerable people in society.

The idea that the ruling class can be persuaded or entreated to protect animals when they’re busy using the capitalist system to gain wealth and power is laughable. Ronnie and Kevin would be chewed up, spat out and made to conform. I’m sure they have the best of intentions but their tactics are naive and ill-thought through. Ronnie got it right 30 years ago when he said: “Neither human nor animal liberation will be properly achieved until all governments and states are abolished.” That includes Green governments too.

20-26 April: World Week for Animals in Laboratories

WWAIL is calling for a global grassroots week of action from 20-26 April 2015 in keeping with the traditional remembrance of laboratory animals that has been marked by World Day for Animals in Laboratories on 24 April. Rather than the traditional march, all actions will be organised by and for local groups or grassroots campaigns.

There will be a diverse range of activities challenging vivisection in as many ways as possible. These will include demonstrations, street stalls, film showings, solidarity for activists either in prison, facing or recovering from repression.

Please email your actions and events and we will publicise them. Email them to: info@wwail.org

Send us your reports afterwards and we can put them on the website so everyone can be inspired by your amazing events.

This decentralised week of action has been organised with a commitment to eradicating all forms of oppression. See our anti-oppression statement here:  http://wwail.noflag.org.uk/?page_id=41

For more information about the reality of vivisection today, see the information and resources page here: http://wwail.noflag.org.uk/?page_id=11


Another scientific “breakthrough”: GM cows resistant to TB!

It’s been reported in the Guardian that GM cattle have been created in in China that are either resistant to bovine TB or have suffered very minimal effects of the disease. This is being hailed by certain scientists in this country as the answer to the epidemic here.

Prof Mike Coffey is quoted as saying: “This would slow down any spread of the disease and slowly reduce the national level in herds.” He added: “The GM approach cuts out the middleman”, a reference to the speed at which resistant animals can be produced in contrast to  traditonal breeding techniques.

The term “middleman” refers to a person who buys goods from producers and sells them to retailers or consumers. That it’s used to describe this process tells us all we need to know about the commodification of animals and agriculture under capitalism.

TB is endemic in modern farmed cattle because the animals’ immune systems have been damaged by intensive farming. Cows are treated as milk machines whose sole purpose is to provide the maximum profit for the farmer. After 5-6 years when their yield drops they are slaughtered for cheap meat. Cows naturally live for 20 or more years.

Their calves – which are the inevitable by-product of lactation – are taken away within one day of being born. Female calves are sold at market and most male calves are shot – up to 100,000 die this way each year in the UK.

Such an unnatural and cruel system leads to diseases like mastitis and TB. Badgers have been blamed for the latter and they are being culled in certain areas. This been fiercely opposed by activists and most experts disagree with it. It has also – surprise, surprise! – failed to reduce the disease on farms.

Now cows themselves are being made to suffer through these insane experiments in which they are given a mouse gene which is supposed to protect against TB. In fact 10 of the 23 genetically modified calves didn’t even survive into adulthood.

The article quotes another scientist from Edinburgh University as saying: “The world faces unprecedented population growth on the backdrop of competing pressure on agricultural land and resources . Society needs to embrace many strategies to address the global challenge.”

That’s correct. The huge increase in population is in farmed animals, currently running at about 60 billion and forecast to increase by 50% in the next 30 or so years. This research, if successful, would only add to that and cause immense suffering in the meantime as well.

The strategy that should be embraced is one that puts animals and agriculture before profit, by building a green, anarchist and vegan world where humans can live in harmony with each other and the rest of nature. So-called “solutions” such as GM plants or animals do nothing to achieve this and are not the answer.


An earlier post on the cull: https://network23.org/redblackgreen/2014/09/22/cull-tories-not-badgers/

New animal rights group in the UK

A new grassroots animal rights group was launched today. It’s called the Animal Justice Project and its founding statement says it is an international, non-profit organisation dedicated to the ending of animal experimentation and other forms of speciesism” and will endeavour to “create a society where all animals are treated equally, with compassion and respect, as well as an end to their exploitation in laboratories and farms”.

From the its website, it appears the emphasis will be on campaigning against vivisection. Since the state clampdown of the mid noughties, quite a few groups have tried to re-energise that part of the movement but most have failed. One of the exceptions has been the British Heartless Foundation which has held days of action against BHF charity shops.

For decades the AR movement in Britain was measured by the strength of its anti-vivisection activism and direct action groups like the ALF. Both have suffered in recent years but any attempt to revive that spirit of radicalism has to be applauded. The AJP’s campaigns have still to be announced and news of them is awaited with interest.

Of course any organisation is only as good as its supporters. If it inspires people to take part and gives them hope they can bring about change, then it can be a force to be reckoned with. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by being inclusive and participatory and holding meetings. Bringing people together, exchanging views, listening to ideas – there is no substitute for that. We may live in a world of social media but there is nothing like direct human contact.

Good luck to the Animal Justice Project and all those involved in it. Here’s hoping it is just the fillip that animal rights in the UK has been waiting for.



Flashback: 14 February 1982 – ALF’s Operation Valentine Raid

Exactly 33 years ago today one of the most famous raids in ALF history took place at Life Science Research (LSR) in Essex. Over 100 activists forced their way into the contract-testing laboratory in broad daylight, rescuing nine beagles and a large number of rats and mice.

The BUAV’s newspaper Liberator said: “Damage estimated at £100,000 plus the almost total destruction of a van used to collect animals for vivisection was the score tallied by the Animal Liberation Front as a result of Operation Valentine.” People fled in cars with the police in pursuit and there were 64 arrests but, importantly, none of the animals were recovered.

Liberator reported a spokesperson for LSR as saying the rescuers were “Nazi-style thugs in uniforms”, before adding: “There is no way our tests are cruel to animals. The ALF’s response was that “the speaker himself must have been a Nazi.”

In context: The LSR raid was the culmination of a series of attacks against the vivisection industry going back to the formation of the ALF six years earlier. In 1977 over 200 animals were liberated from laboratories. In one raid activists broke into Condiltox in North London, causing £80,000 damage. Shortly afterwards the lab closed down.

In August 1979 arson was employed for the first time with a blaze at the Essex offices of lab supplier Tuck and Sons causing £20,000 damage. In 1980 there were about half a dozen raids against vivisection targets including the first attack on a vivisector’s home.

1981 saw a night of action with as many as 40 attacks, mainly with paint, on the houses and cars of vivisectors. A further 18 actions against vivisection targets took place by the end of the year, including a raid on Wickham Laboratories which freed 11 beagles.

According to the book Against All Odds (1986): “There was a further increase in anti-vivisection raids in 1982 and in many ways the year was a landmark for animal liberation action.” In February the first daylight ALF raid at Safepharm Labs in Derbyshire acted as a curtain raiser for Operation Valentine. Film of people fleeing with rabbits was shown on TV and unfortunately this led to eight arrests and suspended sentences for those involved.

What happened next: The raid had an immediate effect on the movement and LSR itself. It received unprecedented publicity including TV and radio coverage and the front page of the Daily Mirror with the headline, “Rescued: hooded raiders free lab dogs” alongside an iconic photo of a masked activist holding a beagle. As well as damage on the day, a £30,000 order was lost as a result of the action and 100 workers were made redundant.

In March 1982 15 guinea pigs were liberated from an animal breeders in Sussex and the following month the ALF raided a supplier of mice, damaging a car and rescuing several dozen inmates. In April the Western Animal Liberation League rescued a beagle at a protest against a lab supplier and the same month the house of a vivisector in Sheffield was daubed with slogans.

Actions continued during the year, including 12 beagles taken from Boots’ lab near Nottingham and Leicester University Psychology Dept’s animal house closed down. World Lab Animal Day in April saw hundreds of people tear down the fence at Porton Down and £2,000 damage was caused to the fence and alarm system at Huntingdon Research Centre during a demo in August.

An Operation Valentine Defence Campaign was set up for the 29 activists who were charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage and steal. 17 were convicted in 1983, eight of whom were imprisoned for between 21 days and 15 months and a further nine were fined or ordered to do community service. The sentences were harsh for the time but they did not stem the tide of direct action. The rest of the 1980s would be an era of animal rights militancy.

Life Science Research never recovered from the raid and later in the decade it merged with Huntingdon Research Centre to become Huntingdon Life Sciences. The rest, as they say, is history.

14 February: British Heartless Foundation Day of Action

A well probed theme of this blog has been the decline of effective grassroots anti-vivisection organising in the last 10 years. Repression, low morale and dwindling numbers have all played their part in this but I’m pleased to say that all is not doom and gloom as there is an excellent campaign around at the moment.

The British Heartless Foundation has been busy protesting outside BHF’s charity shops for some time now and tomorrow sees the a special Valentine’s Day of Action which asks the public to have a heart for the animals who suffer because of the the charity.

Most of the people who donate and/or buy from BHF’s charity shops have no idea what their money goes on – cruel and pointless experiments on animals such as dogs, rabbits, pigs, mice, rats and even sheep. The campaign’s website states:

Behind the pleasant imagery that we associate with the British Heart Foundation, smiling doctors, thoughtful patients, colourful shop fronts and fun runners pounding the streets, lies a dark secret: money donated in good faith is spent on sickening animal experiments, often at top name academic institutions  A number of cruel fates await an animal unfortunate enough to be part of a BHF “research project” – they could be bred sole to have their hearts ripped out, be poisoned, or have a heart attack artificially induced. No wonder they don’t advertise the fact they test on animals in any of their shops or at any of their events.

Tomorrow their will be demonstrations at shops across the UK. Unfortunately the group’s website does not list them, they are available only on its Facebook page. As I know on everyone uses social media, here is the complete list.

BHF Nottingham on Angel Row at 12.00pm, BHF Swansea at 10 am,  BHF Trowbridge 10am, BHF Neath in the afternoon, BHF Cardiff, Albany Road, from 11am,BHF Hereford. Eign Gate at 10am then in the afternoon too, BHF Wanstead High Street. 2 – 4pm, BHF Brighton, Western Road 12 – 2pm, BHF Acocks Green, Birmingham TTBC, BHF Derby. Corn Market. 11am onwards, BHF Glasgow Sauchiehall Street – 11am-1pm, (meet 10.45am outside the Centre of Contemporary Arts on Sauchiehall st), BHF Camberley, High Street, Surrey 11am, BHF Cambridge TTBC, BHF Chelmsford. 9:30am, BHF Poole, High st. 10.30 – 2.30pm, BHS Southampton, BHF Bournemouth, BHF Northumberland, BHF Ipswich, BHF Camden, High St, London  11am -3pm,BHF Croydon. 7-10 Suffolk House, George Street 10am -11am, BHF Clapham, London 11.30 – 12.30pm, BHF Fulham, London, Northend Rd 1- 2.30pm, BHF Newcastle, Clayton St, 11am onwards, BHF Norwich, BHF Bury St Edmunds, BHF Hereford, BHF Galashiels 10-11 am,  BHF Coventry Hertford st. (Bull Yard), CV1. 11am onwards, BHF Hastings, BHF Ramsgate, BHF New Malden, Surrey, BHF Leeds, BHF Dundee, 14 Reform Street, DD1 1RG. 2pm-on, BHF Sheffield, BHF Milton Keynes, BHF Inverness, BHF Romford, South Street 12pm, BHF Southend, Essex. 11am Southend High St, 11am, BHF York, 11 Goodramgate, YO1 7LW and 14 Bridge Street, YO1 6DD, BHF Swindon, BHF Wanstead, London, 2-4pm, BHF Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, BHF Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. 2 pm, BHF Brook Street, Ilkley 11-3, BHF Eastbourne, BHF Stourbridge, BHF Swansea, BHF Spalding, Lincs, BHF Hemel Hempstead, BHF Gosport, Bold Street Liverpool around 12pm, BHF Preston, Lancs, BHF Leicester.

As you can see, it’s an amazing effort; no doubt the biggest grassroots anti-vivisection event this country has seen in many, many years. Hats off to the campaign and all the people who will be out tomorrow. This is the animal rights movement doing what it does best, getting on to the streets and campaigning to ordinary people, hitting an animal abuser where it hurts most – in the pocket – and exposing BHS’s dirty secret.

20 years ago there was a similar campaign against Boots the Chemist which had its own laboratory near Nottingham. This went on for years and was eventually successful when the company caved in to the pressure and pulled out of the pharmaceutical business. It was an amazing breakthrough that paved the way for later initiatives against laboratory animal breeders such as Consort, Hillgrove and Shamrock.

Can the BHF campaign be as successful? Who knows? One thing it doesn’t have which the Boots campaign had was the tremendous number of attacks on the shops. A national newspaper reported during the early nineties that 60 – yes 60!! – of Boots’ stores had their windows smashed every month.

Direct action on that scale simply doesn’t go on anymore. But even without it, we know that BHF are getting seriously rattled because they’re scared stiff of people knowing the truth about their dirty secret.  This is one campaign that is not going away!



Behind the pleasant imagery that we associate with the British Heart Foundation thoughtful patients, colourful shop fronts and fun runners pounding the streets, lies a dark secret: money donated in good faith is spent on sickening animal experiments, often at top name academic institutions1. A number of cruel fates await an animal unfortunate enough to be part of a BHF “research project” – they could be bred solely to have their hearts ripped out2, be poisoned3, or have a heart attack artificially induced4. No wonder they don’t advertise the fact they test on animals in any of their shops or at any of their events

Behind the pleasant imagery that we associate with the British Heart Foundation: smiling doctors, thoughtful patients, colourful shop fronts and fun runners pounding the streets, lies a dark secret: money donated in good faith is spent on sickening animal experiments, often at top name academic institutions1. A number of cruel fates await an animal unfortunate enough to be part of a BHF “research project” – they could be bred solely to have their hearts ripped out2, be poisoned3, or have a heart attack artificially induced4. No wonder they don’t advertise the fact they test on animals in any of their shops or at any of their events

Behind the pleasant imagery that we associate with the British Heart Foundation: smiling doctors, thoughtful patients, colourful shop fronts and fun runners pounding the streets, lies a dark secret: money donated in good faith is spent on sickening animal experiments, often at top name academic institutions1. A number of cruel fates await an animal unfortunate enough to be part of a BHF “research project” – they could be bred solely to have their hearts ripped out2, be poisoned3, or have a heart attack artificially induced4. No wonder they don’t advertise the fact they test on animals in any of their shops or at any of their events

Behind the pleasant imagery that we associate with the British Heart Foundation: smiling doctors, thoughtful patients, colourful shop fronts and fun runners pounding the streets, lies a dark secret: money donated in good faith is spent on sickening animal experiments, often at top name academic institutions1. A number of cruel fates await an animal unfortunate enough to be part of a BHF “research project” – they could be bred solely to have their hearts ripped out2, be poisoned3, or have a heart attack artificially induced4. No wonder they don’t advertise the fact they test on animals in any of their shops or at any of their events

Flashback: 20 January 2001 – HLS saved from the brink

The first in a new series of posts which look back at past events on a particular day.

14 years ago today the notorious Huntingdon Life Sciences, which tortures thousands of animals in cruel and unscientific experiments, was teetering on the brink of collapse. Outstanding loans were due to be paid back on Friday 19 January, leaving HLS facing insolvency.

As the hours counted down to bankruptcy, articles in the press and statements from scientists and politicians called on the government to step in. MP for Huntingdon and former Prime Minister, John Major, said: “The worst outcome would be for violent protesters to win. The real damage here is the domino effect.”

Only the last minute intervention of Lord Sainsbury, the New Labour science minister, allowed a deal to be brokered. Negotiations went on into the small hours of 20 January and eventually Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) wiped off the £11million owed to it for just £1. Meanwhile another financial institution, whose identity was kept secret, handed HLS a lifeline by extending the remaining loan.

In context: The campaign against HLS, Europe’s biggest contract-testing laboratory,  intensified following an undercover investigation shown on Channel 4 in 1997. Horrific footage of beagles being punched in the face led to the prosecution of four “animal technicians” for cruelty and a four month inquiry during which the company’s licence to vivisect was suspended.

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) was formed in November 1999 and said HLS would close within three years. In 2000, SHAC obtained a list of HLS shareholders, including the pension funds of the Labour Party and Camden Council. The list was passed to The Sunday Telegraph and the Labour Party sold its 75,000 shares in January 2001. As a result the share price sank to just 1p. Also in December 2000 HLS was dropped from the New York Stock Exchange because its market capitalization had fallen below NYSE limits.

Throughout 2000 activists kept up the pressure by demonstrating at HLS’ three sites and at the homes of its workers, as well as against Nat West Bank and RBS who had given it the loan. Direct action increased as well with cashpoint machines a favourite target.

What happened next: The identity of HLS’ saviour was revealed as Stephens Inc., an Arkansas-based investment firm. Greg Avery, co-founder of SHAC, was defiant, saying: “Anyone who funds them, we will destroy. The government can do what they want, they will not save HLS.”

In February a massive mobile demo of 1000 people attacked the facilities of Glaxo, Bayer and Eli Lilly, who were customers of HLS. The same month managing director Brian Cass was assaulted outside his home. In March the company lost both of its market makers and its place on the London Stock Exchange. Shortly afterwards it moved its HQ to the United States, incorporating as Life Sciences Research

In July 2001 it was revealed that HLS was using the Bank of England as no commercial bank would go near it. The following year “global leader” Marsh Inc quit as insurer and the government had to step in to provide that service as well.

By 2003, however, the tide was turning. That year HLS won an injunction under the Protection from Harassment Act and eventually nearly 20 companies who used HLS did likewise, limiting the effectiveness of protests against them. Demonstrations outside peoples’ homes were banned and the offence of aggravated trespass was extended to buildings.

However, these measures did not stop over 100 companies severing links with HLS in 2004 and the laboratory was even forced into doing its own laundry. Finally in 2005 the government introduced new laws against SHAC activists. This meant much harsher penalties of up to five years for offences that previously might have resulted in just a few months imprisonment or even a fine.

This had a chilling effect on protest but worse was to come in 2007 with mass arrests in a police operation known as Operation Achilles. In 2009 and 2010, 13 members of SHAC, were jailed for between 15 months and eleven years on charges of conspiracy to blackmail HLS and its suppliers.

SHAC carried on for another four years until Debbie Vincent was convicted of conspiracy to blackmail in April 2014. In a final statement in August it said it had run the “biggest and most effective grassroots animal rights campaign the world has ever seen” but now was time “to reassess our methods, obstacles and opponent’s weaknesses, to build up our solidarity network for activists and to start healing the effects of repression.”