Oxford's day of protests – animal rights and human wrongs

Well, it was quite an extraordinary day in Oxford yesterday. Around 1,000 people turned for the Pro-Test march – which was as much about shouting down the animal rights protestors as it was supporting the new housing centre being built in the heart of town – and about 300 or so of the usual animal rights protestors also turned up to protest – as much about the Pro-Test march as about the new lab.

The police did an extraordinary job of shepharding both marches both taking place in a very small area while preventing any clashes and, crucially, not interfering with either.

That it didn’t turn ugly is quite something. And let’s be honest, the high possibility that it would was a fundamental reason behind the very high turnout from the media.

I’ll do a longer piece on the marches themselves when I have a minute, but I thought I’d just stick up some of my photos from the day – especially having seen some the poor ones that appeared in the national press this morning.

My overall feeling was that it was a good day for democracy and for this country. I also think that despite strong and defiant (and slightly disturbing) words from Speak spokesman Mel Broughton, that the Pro-Test march ruled the day.

A huge number of people turned out, but the entire march was marked by good humour. Shifting 1,000 people down three streets – stopping them, and then turning them about 180 degrees to walk the same path back again is not easy.

Part of the reason it worked was the extremely bright move of having a different set of speakers at each point. The young lad that accidentally kicked all this off, Laurie Pycroft, was first to speak at the meeting place in Broad Strett. As was Prof John Stein, and Evan Harris MP.

When stopped next the centre at the heart of the argument – and only 100 yards away from the animal rights protestors, Prof Tipu Aziz as well as a bio-chem student and a health journalist spoke. At then, finally, at the end of the march at Radcliffe Square, the march organisers gave themselves a speech or two.

The level of speech was high. People were intelligent, passionate and coherent. It reallt felt like we were witnessing an important event. And perhaps we were – this is possibly the first time people have stood up publicly in *favour* of animal experimentation. It is, let’s face it, something that welcomes discretion far more than vocal support.

But the animal rights protestors have really pushed it too far and have irritated people to such a degree that they have sparked a counter-march.

As for the animal rights protest – fronted as usual by Speak – it was a surprisingly big turnout. I really thought that they were stupid to march at all, and should simply have postponed their march until next Saturday, but they attracted a large number of people – around 300.

They also expressed somethemselves passionately. But, objectively, it has to be said a high proportion of the Speak protestors were verbally aggressive and abusive where Pro-Test marchers simply weren’t.

Mel Broughton, Speak’s spokesman, gave a rousing address while balancing on a small post on Broad Street, but his words were full of threats and anger. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

When photographing, you always try to seek out interesting looking people. What struck me about the two marches though was how unpleasant Speak marchers were in comparison to Pro-Test. When you saw someone who was on the Speak march who didn’t look threatening, they stood out. The opposite was true with the other march.

The march also highlighted the other differences. Pro-Test’s march was all about information and positive benefits; Speak’s was all about anger and secrets. I recorded at various points during the day and the tone and words of protestors on both sides were immediately apparent. Anger one side; reason the other. I’ll do a podcast at some point soon.

If nothing else, Pro-Test will have shone much-needed light on the animal rights protestors. For a group purporting to be interested in helping animals, in the wider duty of care owed by humans to animals, they are an incredibly unsympathetic bunch.

Of course they were under pressure and were no doubt hugely irritated by the media attention granted Pro-Test when they honestly believe they are right. Nonetheless, an important point was made.

What will be interesting to see is the longevity of both protests. Will Pro-Test be a one-off – will people honestly be bothered to do another march? What’s the point?

Speak will certainly continue to run protests – but will the moderate members that make up most of the organisation return? Faced with large numbers of people who disagreed with them, they saw the moral high ground turn into spitting fury. That is not something that most people want to subject themselves to very often.

It will be interesting to see.

  1. It’s unbeleivable that there are STILL those that think they are special & have the right to use, abuse & murder our fellow beings… who by the way were on this planet long before the human animal!

    Something else that concerns those of us against vivisection are the human victims & there are so many!
    At least 250,000 patients are admitted to hospital every single year suffering from adverse drug reactions. The BMA puts the yearly cost of treating ADR’s at around 466 million pounds! People are beginning to take notice & now realise that vivsection is all about making money & nothing to do with ethics of any kind.

  2. Animal testing is discusting. Animals arnt brought to the world to sufer. The poor things sufer 24,7 microchips in there head, tubes in thier muscle and more its discusting.

  3. What on *earth* are you talking about?


  4. do you even know what u are talking about? u are on another level like most people on this planet, i cant believe in your “article” you are so concerned about these peoples appearances rather than what they are trying to get accross. these people are history in the making and they are trying to stop suffering full stop and no matter how much people try to bring them down it will never work, what they are saying is right. you should read up on it,its never too late to change your views. these people amaze me im so glad they are out there. they really do have humans and animals interests at heart. lets stand up for whats right and let everyone enjoy life like we were supposed to. one day when it all ends i know we will all look back and see how we were and be discusted but proud of those who wanted to make changes no matter how many times they were called weirdos. im proud of you all. lynzi xxxx

  5. they must see some videos about animal tests to see what cruelty happens inside the labs
    ignorance kills

  6. forgive me lord, but who ever wrote this article is a sick individual who needs to live in the real world. commenting on the way people look? i was there and i find that a personal insult, but then when you havent got proof or facts to support your arguement you have to drop to that level. yes there were swear words shouted from our antis and speak but are you suprised? what sort of disturbed individual supports animal testing? they have even admitted themselves it is doing no good. god have mercy on your sick twisted cold hearted little souls. not that he will. STAND up SPEAK out against animal abuse.

  7. Thankyou Lois for demonstrating several of my points in this post so effectively.


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