Pro-Test march strikes historic note

It’s an extraordinary thing, this [tag]Pro-Test[/tag] movement that started only a few months and yet has had an enormous nationwide impact on a very difficult subject – the use of animal testing.

On Saturday, the group – fronted as usual by 16-year-old [tag]Laurie Pycroft[/tag] – had their second march through [tag]Oxford[/tag] and even though there were fewer people than the first march, despite it being a beautiful day, there was a real sense of something historic happening.

Pro-Test march, Oxford, June 2006

There was a similar feel at the first march on 26 February, but the sense that time was that this was the first time people had publicly stood up for animal testing. On 3 June, that change had come – wide media attention, GlaxoSmithKline publicly stating its support for animal testing, the prime minister himself signing a petition – and there was instead a collective sense of excitement that the movement had achieved so much in such a short period of time.

At the first march, there was real fear because of the violent tactics and intimidation meted out by [tag]animal rights[/tag] extremists that was held off by collective strength in numbers. Yesterday, people were wandering around Oxford for hours afterwards with Pro-Test T-shirts on. Even Professor John Stein, who is normally extremely anxious having been personally threatened by animal rights extremists, was relaxed and smiling.

Laurie Pycroft

There were new speakers – scientists and MPs and an Oxford University representative – and government statements, and a new PA system on a pick-up truck where before there was a small trolley and a megaphone. There were words of condemnation for the animal rights protestors – who at that moment were standing outside the living quarters of the builders working on the animal lab at the centre of the controversy 30 miles away in Moreton-in-Marsh – but at the same time one of the biggest cheers of the day went to Evan Harris when he said it was no longer about the animal rights protestors, the issue had become bigger than that.

Kids and protestors

The fact that [tag]Colin Blakemore[/tag] – the activists number one target and a man that, The Observer tells us, has “endured assaults by masked terrorists, bombs sent to his children, letters laced with razor blades, a suicide bid by his wife, and more than a decade of attacks and abuse by animal rights campaigners” – felt confident enough to stand on a truck with the animal housing lab behind him and give a speech is a great thing, whether you agree with what he does in his work or not.

Listening to speeches

Not for the first time – in fact for the fourth time – the Pro-Test speeches contained a good deal of serious thought, as opposed to the hate-filled ranting that Speak’s frontman Mel Broughton has settled into.

The march started around the corner from the usual Broad Street venue, which confused a few people trying to find it. Here’s a rundown of the speakers with pics and MP3s of their speeches. Please note that I was standing next to the truck which had its engine running to juice up the PA system, so that is why the quality isn’t crystal clear. I have cleaned the sound up to dampen down the engine noise, which occasionally lends a kind-of underwater tone to the speakers.

First up was Laurie Pycroft who gave his usual “I can’t believe what this has become” short speech. You have to hand it to this 16-year-old, really. He could so easily have gone off on a teenager angsty rant, and the Pro-Test movement would have died before it even began, but he has taken a very mature public tone and it has enabled everyone else from MPs, ministers, journalists and university representative to get behind the organisation.



Then shadow trade secretary [tag]Alan Duncan[/tag] stood up and gave a good address about how the march was about democracy and threw down some withering words at the animal rights protestors. Mr Duncan is the epitome of a MP but he slightly misjudged the public feeling because the crowd wasn’t there on an anti-Speak march.

Alan Duncan MP

Listen to his speech here.

Evan Harris MPNext up, local MP [tag]Evan Harris[/tag], who has been a public supporter of Pro-Test since almost its inception and is desperately trying to push the debate of animal testing into wider public debate. He has been closely following the whole movement so had a keener grasp of what the march was about, and went on about the bigger picture and pushed again his idea of having pill bottles show that they have been testing on animals in order to stick the realities of life out there. People are still unsure about that, but then he’s a campaigning MP, which is nice to see.

Listen to his speech here.

Then the MC Tom Holder read out messages sent by former home secretary Charles Clarke, and government health minister Andrew Burnham, lending their support to the march.

Listen to Clarke’s statement.
Listen to Burnham’s statement.

Ken FlemingThen Professor Ken Fleming – who was at the Pro-Test Town Hall meeting a few weeks ago but came this time as an official representative of the university. He struck a fine line as well in thanking the people therefore – many of them Oxford students – for supporting the university, when alot of the people don’t so much support the university as the right for the university to build the lab without intimidation.

I think what people do need to recognise with the Pro-Test march is that no one really likes the fact that the lab is being built, or that animal experimentation will go on there, but what they did stand for is the fact that animal testing has taken on a negative connotation of such epic proportions thank to animal rights protestors that they are seeking to balance it up. Animal testing is an unpleasant reality and it goes on because there are good reasons for it to go on. But the support stems from the fact that others are misrepresenting the facts and threatening people.

You can hear Mr Fleming’s speech here.

Kristina Cook

Then Holder read an extract from an article written by Lord Robert Winston the week before in The Guardian. Winston couldn’t be there in person as it was the Sabbath, Holder said, which not a soul believed. There simply weren’t enough TV cameras for Winston to grant his presence.

Then Niki Shisler – who has also been supporting Pro-Test since almost day one – gave her usual speech about how the issue of animal testing concerns everyone. Listen to it
Niki Shisler
And finally one of the Pro-Test committee and medical writer, Alison Eden, gave an interesting speech about how it was our duty to stand up for scientists. Sadly, since the MC slipped up and said Shisler was the last speaker, I was already away from the speakers with the mic turned off when she started speaking so I have no recording of it.

Then the march set off. Down Parks Road, Catte St, into Radcliffe Square, and then down the left-hand side of the High St, back along Longwall Street, Holywell Street, then Parks Road, South Parks road and then stop close to then unfinished lab for another set of speeches.

Pro-Test march Holywell St

What was immediately noticeable was the far lower police presence than usual. There were also far fewer senior police officials. Presumably they were either have a weekend off or were at Moreton-in-March keeping an eye on [tag]Speak[/tag].

I also wore a wry smile when Tom Holder got carried away again when it came to the media. A line of Pro-Test marshalls walked in front of the procession – for what reason I’m not entirely sure – with linked hands. This annoyed the photographers (myself included) because it meant you couldn’t get any good shots of the MPs, Laurie and the banner at the head of the march. So the photographers simply reached over the line, but this caused some shoving, at which point the old hands threatened just to walk away.

Pro-Test march, Parks Road

Cue Alan Duncan – ever the politician and very keen on getting a photo in the papers for giving up his Saturday – immediately stopping and lining up for a photo in Radcliffe Square. But the photographers had wandered off. Then some brief panicking by all concerned before the photographers were “let in”. It was all a bit daft especially since the real photo opp was with the Radcliffe Camera in the background at the exit to the square. The celebs paused, everyone snapped off a dozen shots a-piece and it was all done.

Pro-Test march Radcliffe Sq

I find people’s odd relationship with the media hilarious. Real love-hate. And everyone faces the same dilemma: they try to control the media, but at the same time are desperate for their attention. Of course, as a journalist, you are at the end of this all the time and grow comfortable with it, which is precisely where the abject disregard for rules and the peculiar confidence that worries people comes from.

Anyway, at the lab site, the speeches started up again with Colin Blakemore, who is the animal rights activists number one target and a man who has had to put up with the most appalling intimidation. He looked weary but his message was defiant, claiming Pro-Test had caused “the most remarkable change in public opinion ever in this country”.

Listen to the speech here.
Colin Blakemore

Then Professor Peter McNaughton, from Cambridge University, who also gave a good speech about the realities of animal testing and marvelled at the number of young people there and how they were the future.

Listen to his speech.
Prof Peter McNaughton

And then Iain Simpson – one of Pro-Test’s main organisers – whose rhetoric is good but his delivery is a bit Arthur Scargill. He’s a nice bloke but he needs to calm down if he gives speeches.

Have a listen.
Iain Simpson

And then a roll-call of people to thank which was actually when the feeling of history in the making became almost palpable. The large number of people that had come together and defied the difficulty of the subject, and the very high risk of threats and intimidation from the animal rights protestors. A real sense of people having stood up for their rights and it having worked beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.

Pro-Test march on South Parks Road

I still have significant reservations about animal testing – and I suspect that the reason that Oxford University won’t allow the cameras into its animal testing labs is because the images simply will be shocking to the wider public – but I was very glad to have been there standing in the June sun as a small group of intelligent and dedicated people showed just what was possible with some hard work and courage.

Laurie Pycroft and banner

34 Responses to “Pro-Test march strikes historic note”

  • saving lives takes prority over extremest hyprocitical animal rights campaigners

  • The only way vivisectionist will stop is if we animal rights advocates are exemplary in our health, and show by example that people don’t have to get sick if they follow an integrated body, mind & soul life affirming regime. Personally I have had enormous success with a raw food vegan diet, needing only one meal per day, & haven’t needed to visit a doctor in 20+ years. I read some journalist comments of the lifestyle that the teenager Laurie Pycroft leads, it included coke & roast chicken. I propose to Pro-Test, wouldn’t it make more sense to prevent disease through a diet that nature intended, we only need look to our nearest neighbours the gorillas, they are vegetarian & don’t cook their food. In what way does using fire improve the quality of what nature provides in abundance, it doesn’t & subsequently makes this food toxic therefore causing disease.(vegetarians need to consider!!). Also I for one would never ask another creature to sacrifice itself for my welfare, I would, however, not hesitate to sacrifice myself for their welfare…. This I believe is the kind of heroism that ‘pro-test’ would be up against. Pro-Test why not consider this win-win scenario in which (healthy & thriving)humans eating as nature intended are free from the early onset of lifestyle related diseases live peacefully with other species . Putting ‘prevention’ before ‘cure’ not only saves human life but also animal life. To conclude, peace of mind comes from sacrificing, not others, but yourself for the welfare of others……….

  • I have to say, unfortunately, that your logic is completely incoherent.

    Is your argument that disease is only caused by eating animals? You should go to a hospital in India.

    Why do you feel the need to personalise your argument at Pro-Test? If you want to win the argument, take what Pro-Test says and dissect it.

    I don’t understand what your point is with your final sentence: “Peace of mind comes from sacrificing, not others, but yourself for the welfare of others.” Who is sacrificing or not sacrificing in this animal testing dispute?

    All the best


  • So… where are pro-test??? This fighting force who are going to wipe out the animal rights movement?

  • Kerry,

    I’m afraid that you’ve rather eloquently pointed out alot of people’s problem with the animal rights movement.

    Pro-Test was never about being an anti-animal rights organisation. It was concerned almost entirely with the fact that the case *for* animal testing was being lost amid very aggressive and often wildly inaccurate lobbying by the animal rights movement.

    The fact that Speak often consciously chooses to blur this distinction is a big part of the problem. Your tribal roaring is precisely the concern.


  • Actually, if you investigate further you will find that pro-test are divided as many WERE in fact ‘anti-animal rights’, as you put it. Others in pro-test didn’t agree so formed a separate group.

    Interesting that you compare a brief comment by me to ‘tribal roaring’. You have stressed in the past that you are impartial regarding AR and only report events as you see them but your prompt and critical response indicates otherwise.

  • Kerry, you really shouldn’t believe everything you read on the ALF website. Pro-Test has not split, “Stand up for Science” is a blog run by one of the Pro-Test committee members since the foundation of Pro-Test, not a seperate organization. There is a link to “Stand up for Science” on the Pro-Test website. Pro-Test has only been quiet lately because a lot of its committee members are students who have been away from Oxford over the summer, while others have been preparing for a lecture tour in the USA earlier this month (which was a great success), revising the website and making other preparations for the start of the new academic year . You’ll be hearing a lot more from Pro-Test over the next few weeks.

    Lies such as the one you are trying to spread about Pro-Test are the reason why the anti-vivisectionist movement is loosing public support.

  • anti-vivisectionist

    Vivisection has never been and never will be a science.
    I challenge anyone from this “pro-test march” to a live public debate on vivisection.
    This website page clearly indicates such repititious non-thinking idiots,saying such nonsense as ,
    “humane animal research is vital”,
    “animal models predicted drug’s are safe for humans”,
    “all the drugs have been tested on animals” bla bla bla.

    “In science,the authority embodied in the opinion of thousands is not worth the spark of reason in one man”

    Vivisection is a complete pseudo-science.
    Vivisectors are NOT scientists,but retarded fecks.

    I’ll wait for any of you fools to challenge me to a proper public debate,though I won’t hold my breath because you vivisectors know you can’t win a scientific debate. hahaha

  • I’m sure that if you contact Pro-Test at their website they’ll be only too pleased to oblige you. After all they did completely whip your ass on the Oxford gossip forum recently where every “scientific” claim that you made about HIV protease inhibitors, DES, Thalidomide and cancer treatment was shown to be a lie.

    See the thread “web site status” at
    I’m afraid it’s a rather long thread.

  • anti-vivisectionist

    I’m NOT on the oxford gossip forum,stupid.You are obvisiously referring to another anti-vivisectionist.
    I’ve read the simplistic repititious authoritarian rubbish on both pro-test and the oxford gossip before.
    I will most certainly contact pro-test and do a public debate at either Oxford or London.Take you’re pick.

  • Can I remind the pair of you that this is my blog and if you can’t be civil, I’ll block all future comments.

    Personally, I think a debate would be an excellent idea. If you are serious, they many people that would be happy to set it up, and I will happily attend and report on it objectively.


  • Sorry for being uncivil Kieren, I tend to get annoyed when I see completely made up allegations being presented as the truth. I’m not a member of the Pro-Test committee so the decision on when and where debates will be held is not mine to make. Pro-Test have taken part in several public debates over the past few months so I assume that they’ll be happy to organize another, if they are not already doing so.

  • If vivisection is so crucial for medical advancement how come no-one answered to Vernon Colemans public challenge to prove that just one life had been saved directly by animal experimentation? He set the challenge in 2002 and so far has had no contenders….

  • Probably something to do with it being a carefully designed intellectual conceit that has nothing to do with real-world realities. That, or they couldn’t be bothered.


  • “A bit Arthur Scargill” – do you know I’m still being teased for that now? I have now calmed somewhat. We’re currently in the very early tentative stages of planning march number 3, I’ll try to make sure Tom Holder and the stewards don’t bully the press quite so much this time. We’re also trying to tackle the question of what we do to mark the opening of the lab…and trying to guess who’ll be the one to open it.

  • :-) I’m sorry Iain,

    That’s the downside of getting in the public light. It has lots of upsides too. Please keep me updated about the march.

    All the best


  • idiots… if animals are the closest things to humans and noone seems to care about them then why dont we just put these protesters against animal rights under the knife and lights and blow their brains.

  • If they did this to humans, it would be totally unacceptable, so why should other animals be treated differently, they’re no less important. Human medical research should be tested on humans, animal medical research should be tested on animals, it gives far more effective and reliable results that way anyhow. And it’s fair.

  • The premise of your argument is that animals are morally equivalent to human beings.

    I am afraid you are wrong. Or, at least, every organised society since the dawn of time has disagreed with that argument through their actions and laws.

    As a result you will find that you will have an extremely difficult time persuading any significant group within society of your views when they stem from a standpoint that no one agrees with.


  • Im sorry but I think you’re forgetting that humans are, technically, also a form of animal.

  • You will find that biologists, over the course of hundreds of years, have catalogued tens of thousands of different living organisms precisely because it is important – no, absolutely vital – to differentiate between groups.

    There are fundamental differences between human beings and other animals and these are accounted for, and have been accounted for for centuries, in a an enormous array of legal, moral, scientific and natural rules and references.

    You may wish to ignore such accepted truths but you will find that no one else does.


  • Hi – I’m currently doing research into how to write a speech directed towards highlighting the ‘for’ argument and this blog has been hugely helpful – so a thanks first and foremost.
    secondly, a point of view was expressed to me which i thought was very effective in supporting the pro-test persuasion….that should these terrorists be successful in wiping out the oxford lab or testing altogether, it will only continue elsewhere (abroad) where far less stringent regulations are in place to ensure the welfare of animals, as it is so necessary. what these people are doing is actually worsening the prospects for animals. maybe they should consider that.

  • well i think animal testing is very very cruel! you all should be ashamed of yourselves imagine poor little rabbits and other animals having a miserable life and animal testing does not save lives does it save the animals lives? NO IT DOESN’T!!!! have you looked at all these photos of animals being cruely abused and you can live without animal testing i do and look im still here typing!!! i am only 11 and since i was 3 i ate free range chicken and eggs and i was against animal cruelty and i am still like that. Don’t speak for science science is stupid and cruel and i refuse to be a part of it why don’t they test on people? animals are more important

  • I find it sordid,
    the people is not the only one on the earth

  • I find it sordid,
    the people is not the only one on the earth

  • from Belgium

    Why do they do animal-tests?
    Because they will save the lives of the peolpe.
    And why do the animals haven’t to live there own live
    they have to be ill for the people. I find it horrific. Give the animals also a chance

  • from Belgium

    we are not alone on the earth, the animals has also the right to live in freedom.
    I don’t understand why this organisation is created. I find it egoistic. Because when the people is sick, they have to make a lot of animals sick.

    I love animals and never I will do something like this organisation.
    It’s pitiful

  • There is already too many humans in earth. We must reduce numbers of human AT LEAST to 4 billion or less.

  • IS there really a reason for animal teswting? HOW did it save your life??
    It didn’t! ALL of you NEED to STOP animal testing. Why don’t you die for someone else! Huh?!!?! THIS IS INHUMAIN!

  • WOW,,

    N I thought we were actually getting somewhere,before these idiots came on the scene.
    No offence to anyone I’m just saying since when was it right to torture any living thing.Come on what planet are you retards from like its okey for u to live but those animals can’t.


    Say whay u want I don’t care but you have nerve like commmmeee onnn.

    What planet are you bleeders from.

    Ur child might have survived,,
    But didn’t anothers die?

    There are other things then leaving baby monkeys in caes
    and only being let out to be tested on……

    Man seriously all you need your brain checked..
    no fence(:

  • uuuum sorry honey but what they say is true. in fact its all true. if you actually read the science in the article you would realize it develops real solutions to medical problems. and whoa funnyly enough testing on dogs created a treatment for canine diabetes. so oops sorry it saves animal lives too.
    about you still being alive well if not for animal testing your mother or grandmother would probably have died so you wouldnt exist in a non-animal testing world. as for Animals being more important……. well go down to your local abatoiir and jump into one of the mincing machines please for the sake of the human gene pool. Just in case anyone thinks this is some old proffessor bashing on an 11 year old. i’m only 13
    Survival of the fittest – Vivisection is the way forwards

  • um um sorry wait “you all need your brain checked” and “No fence(:” you guys make less and less sense every day.
    anywhom animal testing is not tortoure, for most procedures the animals are anesthetised unless we need to know if there are paiful side effects.
    and yes as concious beings we do have the right to kill other animals as long as it even has the potential to save human lives. sorry but it kind of happens in nature. The very animals you are trying to stop us from euthanising if in the wild would probably maul mutilate and eat alive other animals.
    But thats just natural you say. Yeah well its just natural for us to test life saving drugs on animals.
    In your situation “your child survives but someone elses dies”. well with no animal testing at all then both children would probably die so morally which is better.
    Animal testing is not an argument of morals it is about causing the least amount of pain and suffering to humans FULL STOP. Im not saying animals do not matter but as a sentient species, the death of a thousand animals is worth saving the life of one human.
    The only reason you are able to campaign is because the world has advanced so far and become ‘civilized’ this only happened because of science that was accelerated by animal testing.
    Now you seek to destroy the one thing that enables this entire argument to continue to rage, civilisation.

    Anti-vivisectionists would have us living in the stone age eating roots. I SAY NO!

  • Geronimo Jackson

    I completely agree with you, Catrina. And I think that these people should die. Its kinda annoying that animal testing saves the lives of people who don’t deserve life. Reply once you get this please


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