Protesters demand end to animal testing at Oxford

Animals rights group SPEAK this week handed over a 65,000-signature petition to Oxford University, calling for an end to all animal testing.

This act was timed to coincide with the end of the World Month for Laboratory Animals, with which SPEAK has been heavily involved. The group has organised demonstrations throughout UK against the use of animals in research and testing.

A march on Cornmarket was held on Friday in support of the petition’s message.

The submission of the petition, for which signatures have been gathered over the last five years, comes after a major victory for the animal rights movement last week, when Oxford and other universities were forced to disclose information about primate testing, which they had previously refused to do.

The university have released a statement about the latest development, defending the work they carry out with animals. “Animals are only used when no other research method is possible,” a spokesperson said, adding “We recognise that people have a range of views on this issue. The university has always said the building (the biomedical sciences centre) is going to be better for animal welfare and is supporting research into disabilities and deadly diseases.”

The petition has been met with criticism by some Oxford students. Robert Smith, a Biochemist in his first year at St Hilda’s College, believes the public should focus on the rewards that animal testing can reap in the field of medicine: ‘When we think of animal testing cruelty and exploitation are often the first things that come to mind. It is sometimes easy to lose sight of what it can actually achieve. As soon as one looks at the number of instances where new cures for human diseases have been found thanks to tests on animals it becomes much harder to condemn.’

SPEAK has opposed the biomedical sciences centre since it was first publically proposed in 2004. Although the principal contractor, Walter Lilly, withdrew after its shareholders received threatening letters, the project was completed and the building was officially opened at the end of 2008.