On the 2nd of December 2016, Animal Justice Project and its many supporters took to University College London’s campus in order to expose and protest the hidden and controversial use of animal testing.This is in light of the launch of their campaign: ‘Campus Without Cruelty’ . With over 202,000 animals used at the university last year alone, UCL has been named the third largest user of animals in the UK.
Supporters came out into the cold to hold paper hearts to ask UCL to ‘have a heart for animals’ in their labs and hold heart shaped plaques naming the species used and how many were used. The atmosphere was sombre as the harsh realities of campus animal testing were brought right to centre of UCL’s main quad.
Animal Justice Project uncovered that over half a million animals were experimented on in London’s universities in 2015 alone. The distressing realities include pigs being given liver failure for over 19 hours, gerbils being anesthetised and having electrodes inserted into their brains and macaques being hooked up to computers by electrodes in their limbs, some of which are killed for their brains to be further studied. The stories go on and on, each no less tragic than the last. What’s more, Animal Justice Project has characterised these practises as ‘scientifically flawed’, describing how many of these experiments do not offer full insight into whether the findings could be applied to human medicine at all. Dr. Andre Manache, Animal Justice Project Science advisor claimed that “studies of this nature offer no predictive value for humans due to species differences”.
The picture doesn’t improve much beyond UCL’s campus, with King’s College London being the fifth largest user of animals in the country and Imperial College London coming in sixth – coming to almost 500,000 between them in 2015. Here at Queen Mary, the practice does continue. Whilst this is undeniably so, Queen Mary claims to do this honestly and has its animal research overseen by the Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body. Moreover, according to Queen Mary’s website, “Queen Mary University of London is a signatory to the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of InVivo Experiments) Guidelines […] maximising information published and minimising unnecessary studies.” They have also signed the Concordat on Openness in Animal Research, meaning they are open about the ways in which animals are used for research in the UK. Additionally, the ‘Animal Replacement Centre of excellence’ (ARC), a project dedicated to non-animal research into skin, breast and prostate cancer, was opened at Queen Mary’s very own Blizard Institute.
After spending the afternoon at the launch, we caught up with Animal Justice Project’s International Director, Claire Palmer, to have our final few questions answered.
What can we do as individuals to help?
“Students can choose compassionately to ensure their education does not involve the harming of others. As a Zoologist with a masters in Applied Animal Behaviour, I understand the pressure placed on students to harm animals, though thankfully, I was offered the choice of opting out of modules involving dissections and animal research. This didn’t affect my studies, or final grade in the slightest. Students also have powerful voices within the universities, and that shouldn’t be underestimated. If you are at university, why not set up an animal rights group, so you can lobby your student union on animal issues, and campaign to end the use of animals on campus.
The practice of vivisection becomes more common in post-graduate years, unfortunately. Even then though, it is important to stick to your guns, and refuse to take part in animal abuse. It helps if you have a sympathetic lecturer, and they’re usually out there, you just need to weed them out! There are usually plenty of other options available. Maybe choose a course where you can actively involve yourself in the advancement of non-animal research. The Dr Hadwen Trust can provide a wealth of information in this area”.
Is the situation improving at all?
“Sadly animal experiments are increasing around the world in countries such as China. In the UK, they remain around the same as they were in the 1980s. The fact that half the animal experiments taking place in this country take place on university campuses is disturbing, but it shows how key students are in eliminating animal research. Believe it or not, the vast majority of research carried out on university campuses and elsewhere is classified as ‘basic’ research – in other words, it is curiosity-driven and need not have any direct benefit for human and veterinary medicine. Thankfully, more and more people are turning their backs on animal experiments. Particularly with regards to, for example, primate research. Earlier this year, Animal Justice Project handed in an Open Letter on primates signed by 33 celebrities and eminent scientists calling for the end to monkey research at a Swedish laboratory. Signers included primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall, actress Joanna Lumley, comedian Alexei Sayle, Downton Abbey actor Peter Egan and American singer Moby.
Science also is moving forward, despite the lack of government funding of non-animal methods. In October, the ‘Animal Replacement Centre of excellence’ (ARC) at Queen Mary’ University of London’s Blizard Institute opened its doors for the first time. The ARC is dedicated to non-animal research into skin, breast and prostate cancer: human models for human disease, and will serve as a focal point for innovative and cutting-edge technology development, for example the development of the most robust and applicable, non-animal research into human cancer. The success of this initiative could have global implications for the advancement of non-animal medical research”.
How often do Animal Justice Project arrange its various protests?
“Animal Justice Project organises events with the help of teams of volunteers across the UK. We have carried out several successful events for our campaigns. ‘Secret War’, on the use of animals in warfare research; ‘Deadly Doses’, to raise awareness on the use of animals in recreational drugs studies; and our most recent (and largest) campaign, ‘Campus without Cruelty’, to tackle university animal research.
Our events take meticulous planning, usually several months beforehand. We contact supporters to invite them along, and send out press releases to local and national media. Media work is time-consuming but extremely important because having a good media story in a national paper means getting our message on animal rights out to thousands, rather than hundreds.”
To find out more about the Animal Justice Project and its campaigns, go to animaljusticeproject.com
SIDE NOTE: Don’t forget it’s Veganuary, to find out more go to https://veganuary.com/.