Former Labour politician Tony Benn has spoken out this week against the new animal laboratory in Oxford.

Benn met with fellow Oxford alumni Sir David Madden, and the Voice for Ethical Research group in Oxford (VERO) on Monday to express his concerns about the lab.

Benn, who studied PPE at New College, told VERO, “I have always been a believer in animal rights. There is now a lot of strong evidence that animal testing is not necessary, and could be done in a different way.”

Benn has spoken out against animal testing saying, “the tide is turning fast against those who still cling on to the view that experimentation and testing of drugs on animals is valid and necessary.”

Animal campaigners at the event on Monday wore academic dress to highlight the existence of what they believe is a large anti-laboratory sentiment within the University itself.

The University has insisted that the new lab will improve the welfare of lab animals. The new building will rehouse animals that were previously scattered around various buildings and to “set a gold star for animal care.”

John Hood said, “Where animals are needed in research, we are committed to the highest standards of care. That is why we have built this new facility.

“The fact that we have completed it in difficult circumstances reflects the depth of our commitment both to life-saving research and to animal care.”

The first mice have been moved into the laboratory on South Parks Road and it will become fully operational in 2009.
Yet the university has insisted that testing will not take place.

Animals will be bred, trained to complete computer-based tasks, receive medication, undergo MRI scans and some will be operated on.

The issue divides students and staff across the University. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous said, “I’m completely against the lab and outraged that Oxford would partake in such controversial activities.”

However another student admitted, “sentiment needs to be outweighed at some point, overall, finding a cure for something like HIV is too important.”

Oxford claim they support peaceful protest and discussion, but find the “intimidation, threats, damage to property, and arson” the University has been subjected to “entirely unacceptable.”

Some students have expressed anger at noisy and possibly dangerous protests, with one saying, “These protests are futile. Let’s face it, no one wants to do it, no one says ‘Let’s torture animals.’ Scientists want to help us.”