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Animal testing

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Alternatives to animal testing
Animal testing
Animal testing on invertebrates
Animal testing on frogs
Animal testing on non-human primates
Animal testing on rabbits
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History of animal testing
History of model organisms

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Great Ape research ban
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Covance · Harlan
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Pro-Test · SPEAK
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Colin Blakemore · Carl Cohen
Simon Festing · Tipu Aziz

Animal testing
Animal rights
Animal welfare

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Pro-Test is a British group that promotes and supports animal testing in medical research. It was founded on January 29, 2006 to counter SPEAK, an animal-rights campaign opposing the construction by Oxford University of a biomedical and animal-research facility,[1] which SPEAK believes may include a primate-testing centre.[2] Pro-Test held its first rally on February 25, 2006, attracting hundreds in support of the research facility and opposed by a smaller number of anti-lab demonstrators.[3]

The group was founded by Laurie Pycroft from Swindon when he was 16. After forming the group, British newspapers described of Pycroft as a "sixth form drop-out," "bedroom blogger,"[4] and "campaigning hero."[5] It is now run by a committee composed of three academics; Tipu Aziz, John Stein, and David Priestman; six Oxford graduate and undergraduate students; medical writer Alison Eden; and Pycroft. [6]

Pro-Test says that it stands for "science, reasoned debate and, above all, the welfare of mankind. … We support only non-violent protest and we condemn those using violence or intimidation to further their goals. We strongly support animal testing as crucially necessary to further medical science." [7] The Guardian has written that it is a "new public interest cause," seeking to "defend animal-testing to advance medical science."[8]


The construction site of the Oxford research centre is located on South Parks Road behind a five-metre (15 ft) barrier. Construction work is carried out by workmen wearing balaclavas and using unmarked vehicles, after the first contractor, Walter Lilly, owned by Montpellier plc, pulled out in the face of threats.[9] The facility is intended to become the "centre for all animal research at Oxford," according to Mark Matfield, former director of the Research Defence Society,[10] resulting in "the closure of a number of existing animal facilities". [11]

The formation of Pro-Test coincided with threats made by the Animal Liberation Front, against Oxford staff and students, on the Bite Back website. [12] ALF spokesman, Robin Webb confirmed that "high-level student groups working against SPEAK protesters may be targeted."[13]

Pycroft describes in his blog, hosted at the LiveJournal website, how he set up Pro-Test after visiting his girlfriend in Oxford on January 28, 2006 and watching a SPEAK demonstration from the window of a coffee shop.[14] [15] Pycroft, his girlfriend, and one other, staged a personal counter-demonstration.

After writing about the experience on his blog, Pycroft has said he was receiving 300 hits an hour within days, [16] and after attracting interest from the media, Oxford students, and the pro-animal-testing movement, he decided to schedule a second demonstration to coincide with a SPEAK protest on February 25, 2006. According to The Times, "Pro-Test’s tactics mirror those of animal rights activists, with about 150 students using websites and chat forums to organise protests."[17]

February 2006 rally

The first Pro-Test march on 25 February 2006, in Broad Street, Oxford, UK.

According to police estimates[3], about 700 students, academics and members of the public took part in the February 25, 2006 protest in the centre of Oxford which passed without violent incident, [18] marching at the same time as more than 150 SPEAK protestors[19] demonstrated in various locations across the city.

A number of politicians and scientists addressed the Pro-Test demonstrators. These included Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat science spokesperson and MP for Oxford West and Abingdon; the Radcliffe Hospital's neurosurgeon and Pro-Test committee member Professor Tipu Aziz, [6] whose research into Parkinson's disease "involves the use of primates," [9] and who recently spoke out in support of testing cosmetics on animals; [20] Simon Festing of the Research Defence Society, a lobby group funded by the pharmaceutical industry and universities; and Pro-Test committee member Professor John Stein, [6] an Oxford neurophysiologist who "induces Parkinson's disease in monkeys and then attaches electrodes to their brains to test therapies which may help human sufferers," according to The Guardian. [4] In his speech to the crowd, Stein declared, "This is a historic day; we are drawing a line in the sand." [21]

June 2006 rally

The second Pro-Test march on 3rd June 2006, Oxford, UK

Supporters of Pro-Test marched through Oxford on Saturday, 3 June, 2006. Their route led them through Radcliffe Square, the High Street and ended nearby the laboratory in the University's science area. Speakers included Prof. Colin Blakemore (the chief executive of the Medical Research Council), Dr Evan Harris MP, Alan Duncan MP (the Shadow Cabinet Trade and Industry Secretary), and Dr Ken Fleming.[citation needed] [1] [2]

Other activities

Pro-Test have taken the case for animal research to Parliament, participating in a debate at The Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare (APGAW). The debate focused specifically upon whether the Oxford biomedical research lab should be built and involved both MPs and members of the public. The principal speakers were Iain Simpson, press officer for Pro-Test, and Dr. Jarrod Bailey of Europeans for Medical Progress.[22]

Pro-Test handed out doughnuts and cakes to workers on the South Parks Road site on March 31, 2006 to show their support for their work. [23]

Pro-Test fielded Pycroft for a debate at the Oxford Union on the motion "This house would not test on animals". Supporting the motion were Dr Gill Langley, Dr Andrew Knight, Uri Gellar and Alistair Currie. On the opposing side were Pycroft, Professor Colin Blakemore, Professor John Stein and Professor Lord Robert Winston. The motion was defeated, 273 to 48 of the Union members voting with the opposing side.

A cross-college student referendum propositioned by Pro-Test was held on November 16 2006. It proposed support for the Oxford lab's construction and animal testing in general, and found support from approximately 90% of voters. [3]

On May 9, 2006, the BBC reported that Pro-Test had bought shares in GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), as a "gesture of solidarity" with the company and its investors. An animal rights group had earlier sent letters to individual shareholders threatening to reveal personal details unless their shares were sold. The letters explained GSK's investors were targeted because of the company's association with Huntingdon Life Sciences. Pro-Test announced that their share purchase was to demonstrate that "intimidation has no place in the UK". [24]

British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave his support to Pro-Test and The People's Petition in an article for the Sunday Telegraph, citing "the Pro-Test demonstration in Oxford, which... deserves support" as an example of the change in public attitudes in the UK. [4] [5] [6]

An unnamed Oxford academic told the BBC that "a war is looming over 'scientific freedom' and the 'future of progress'," and suggests that the Pro-Test campaign is part of a wider reaction against animal-rights activism. [25]

The BBC programme Newsnight hosted a vivisection debate on the 24 July, 2006. Tipu Aziz, John Stein and Iain Simpson of Pro-Test featured in the debate, as did members of SPEAK and Europeans for Medical Progress. [26]

See also


  1. University of Oxford News Release: High Court Ruling (10 November 2004)
  2. SPEAK website: The New Primate Laboratory (undated)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Marchers outnumber rights activists (The Scotsman, 24 February 2006)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bedroom blogger, 16, takes on animal rights protesters (The Guardian, 25 February 2006)
  5. Focus: A campaigning hero (The Times, 26 February 2006)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "The Pro-Test Committee", Pro-Test website, retrieved Feb 8th, 2007
  7. Pro-Test website (undated)
  8. In praise of … student protest (The Guardian, 2 February 2006)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Scientists to speak out for animal tests (The Guardian, 24 February 2006)
  10. Activists halt Oxford lab (The Scientist 20 July 2004)
  11. University of Oxford News Release: Biomedical research facility (19 July 2004)
  12. Communiqué from ALF activists (2 February 2006)
  13. Students will be the next target (The Oxford Student, 12 March 2006)
  14. Science: 1 Ignorance: 0 (LiveJournal entry, dated 28 January 2006)
  15. Pro-Test website: Past Action (undated)
  16. In praise of ... student protest (The Guardian, 2 February 2006)
  17. Students fight back for animal research (The Times 1 February 2006)
  18. Police praise protestors after peaceful demonstrations - Oxford (Thames Valley Police website, 25 February 2006)
  19. Animal lab supporters go on march (BBC News website, 25 February 2006)
  20. "Scientist backs animal testing for cosmetics" (The Guardian, 4 March, 2006)
  21. "Oxford swamped by Protest demo", 4 News website, 25 February 2006.
  22. 'Dirty dozen' claims debunked in parliamentary debate (Research Defence Society website, 15 March 2006)
  23. Student group shows support for Oxford lab builders (The Guardian, 31 March 2006)
  24. Glaxo wins injunction over threat (BBC News website, 9 May 2006)
  25. The pro-test protesters (BBC News website, 22 February 2006)
  26. Half 'against funding animal labs' Newsnight, 24 July 2006)


External links