SPEAK (animals)

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Template:Animal liberation movement SPEAK, the Voice for the Animals is a British animal rights campaign that aims to end animal experimentation and vivisection in the UK. Its current focus is opposition to a new animal testing center being built by Oxford University.


The campaign was born out of Stop Primate Experimentation at Cambridge (SPEAC), which in 2004 halted the construction at the University of Cambridge of a new primate research facility. Had it gone ahead, the facility would have been Europe's largest primate vivisection centre. (See Primate experiments at Cambridge University.) Cambridge announced in January 2004 that the facility would not be built as a result of the "unacceptable financial risk ... largely due to extended delays in the planning process". They acknowledged "that these delays resulted, in part, from the activities of protesters".[1]

After this announcement, the coalition of activists involved in SPEAC learned that the University of Oxford was planning to build a new biomedical research facility to house research animals. In response, the activists announced the formation of "SPEAK, the Voice for the Animals", and declared that their campaign against Oxford would be the second stage in their efforts to end all animal testing in the UK. They say they have learned that talks between Oxford and Cambridge have resulted in Oxford agreeing to conduct some of the brain experiments that were lost at Cambridge.[2]


The spokesman for SPEAK in Oxford is Mel Broughton, a landscape gardener who has served time in prison for possession of incendiary devices with intent to bomb Huntingdon Life Sciences,[3] Europe's largest contract animal-testing laboratory (see Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.) In 2004, he told the Daily Telegraph that he did not regret his past convictions, stating, "I don't have a view on how other people go about their demonstrations" and that "I campaign within the parameters of the law."[4]

Other activists who have been named publicly are Robin Webb, who runs the Animal Liberation Press Office; and Amanda King, who was involved in the Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs campaign. [5]

SPEAK and the law

Although SPEAK only sanctions legal avenues of protest, acts of intimidation, incitement and violence have accompanied the campaign, usually claimed by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). [6] Robert Cogswell, co-founder of SPEAK is on record as saying that the organisation does not condemn the actions of the ALF.[7]

These have included an arson attack on Hertford College boathouse,[8] [9] an attack on Corpus Christi College sports pavilion (which was, apparently, confused with Christ Church property),[10] sending threatening letters to building firms connected with the construction project,[11] the vandalism of other firms connected with the university,[12] and threatening violence against Oxford University staff and students.[13] [14]

SPEAK say that, in the course of their legal protests and demonstrations, their members have suffered assaults and intimidation from police in collusion with the university.[15] [16] [17] In September 2004, Broughton's mother suffered minor injuries during a protest at the construction site, when an unidentified substance was thrown at her, allegedly by one of the construction workers.[18] According to Thames Valley Police, a January 14, 2006 SPEAK protest resulted in around 350 protesters tearing down fences and throwing missiles at police officers.[19] SPEAK, in response, accused the police of a "sustained and brutal attack" on protesters, including "woman, children, the elderly and infirm."[20] Police say ten people have been arrested at SPEAK protests since the start of 2006, mainly for public order offenses.

In July 2004, the university's principal contractor, Walter Lilly, a subsidiary of the Montpellier Group, withdrew from the contract to construct the animal-research facility after its shareholders received threatening letters.[21] [22] Although the company would only say that the decision was reached by mutual consent with Oxford University, it was widely interpreted as a victory for SPEAK.[23][24] Oxford continued the project amid tightened security with a new, unnamed contractor. In November 2004 the university obtained an injunction against a number of individuals and groups, including Broughton and SPEAK, which restricts them from approaching within 50 yards of the construction site and the homes of those connected with the construction, and from holding protests of greater than 50 people in Oxford without police support.[25] [26] The injunction followed mounting complaints from students, researchers and workers about the hours-long use of sirens and megaphones by SPEAK on an almost daily basis. SPEAK considers this an unfair restriction on their legal right to protest[27], while the University claims the injunction ensures "the right of individuals to conduct their lawful business without fear of intimidation or violence."[28] In 2006 Oxford appealed to the High Court to extend the injunction after "clear threats" were made against the university by the ALF.[29] The court ordered that the injunction be widened to extend the exclusion zone, ban the use of megaphones and afford greater protection to individuals supplying goods or service to the university. A request by Oxford to further restrict the number of protesters to 12 was denied.[30]

In October 2006, after allegations were made on the SPEAK web site, Oxford University won a further injunction, prohibiting SPEAK from publishing the "name of, or any information concerning, the company asserted by Speak to be the contractor for the building of the [Oxford] research laboratory". [31]


Animal testing

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

Biomedical Research
Animal rights
Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act
Animal welfare
Great Ape research ban
International trade in primates

Controversial experiments
Cambridge University primates
Pit of despair
Silver Spring monkeys
Unnecessary Fuss

Charles River Laboratories, Inc.
Covance · Harlan
Huntingdon Life Sciences
UK lab animal suppliers

Americans for Medical Progress
Foundation For Biomedical Research
Boyd Group · BUAV
Physicians Committee
Primate Freedom Project
Pro-Test · SPEAK
Research Defence Society
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty

Colin Blakemore · Carl Cohen
Simon Festing · Tipu Aziz

Animal testing
Animal rights
Animal welfare

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In January 2006, a student group called Pro-Test was formed by Laurie Pycroft, then a 16-year-old, with the aim of countering SPEAK and defending the use of animals in biomedical research. Both groups called demonstrations in Oxford on February 25, 2006, resulting in about 700 "students, dons and members of the public" holding a rally opposed by 200-300 SPEAK activists, according to The Scotsman.[32]

Oxford injunction

The Sunday Times reported on June 18, 2006 that members of SPEAK have been awarded legal aid to finance a challenge to an injunction taken out by Oxford University that prevents protesters from threatening or photographing staff, students and contractors at work or at their homes, and that places restrictions on the size and duration of demonstrations. The newspaper has named Mel Broughton, Robin Webb, and Amanda King as three of the activists who have received the funding. [5]

Since being granted legal aid, King was successful in having her name removed from the injunction, but Webb was not. He had argued that the injunction would curb his freedom of speech as a journalist, and claimed he was not a member of any animal rights group. However, according to The Guardian, in his ruling the judge described Webb as a "propagandist" and a "central and pivotal figure [in the ALF]" [33]

Advertising Standards Authority ruling

A brochure produced by SPEAK included a quote from Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE). The quote stated that: "The animal testing regime ... is utterly futile." NICE objected that the statement was quoted out of context and was therefore misleading. In June 2006, the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld the complaint by NICE and ruled that the use of the quote was in breach of ASA guidelines. [34]

The ASA noted that Rawlins' quote referred to the use of animal testing in "long-term carcinogenicity studies with known genotoxic compounds or compounds that produced hyperplasia in chronic toxicity tests only", and did not imply that he was against all animal testing. [34]

Coverage in local media

Due to the sensitive nature of the issue and the targeting of other companies seen as "supporting" Oxford University, reporting of Speak's activities in the local press usually only extends as far as reporting the dates and times of protests, and quoting direct speech from Oxford University and SPEAK spokespersons[35]. Nevertheless, SPEAK has made claims on it's website that the Oxford Mail, a daily local paper, has deliberately mislead readers due to being part of an "Old Boy's Club" with Oxford University[36].

Comments posted beneath news stories on the Oxford Mail's website are predominantly critical of SPEAK and their campaigns in Oxford, usually with posters claiming to be based in Oxfordshire. There are also a small number, often claiming to be living outside of Oxford, who support SPEAK and anti-vivisectionists[37]. The Oxford Mail has also published critical editorials of the violent tactics used by some animal rights protesters[38].


  1. "Primate Research Facility at 307 Huntingdon Road: Notice". Cambridge University Reporter. 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. "The New Primate Laboratory". SPEAK. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
  3. Doward, Jamie (2004-04-11). "Sex and violence allegations split animal rights campaign". The Observer. Retrieved 2006-08-19. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. Davies, Catriona (2004-07-29). "Animal rights activists plan training camp for militants". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Walsh, Gareth. "Animal rights militants are paid legal aid", The Sunday Times, June 18, 2006.
  6. Foster, Patrick and Woolcock, Nicola (2006-02-01). "Students fight back for animal research". The Times. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. "Bans blamed for lab arson". 2005-09-29. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. Cornwell, Rachel (2005-10-05). "Boat clubs count the cost". The Oxford Student. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. "Received anonymously by activists in the UK". BITE BACK magazine. 2005-07-06. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. "Received anonymously by activists in the UK". BITE BACK magazine. 2005-09-25. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. "Threats posted to Oxford lab contractors". 2005-10-11. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. "Anonymous communique". BITE BACK magazine. 2006-01-22. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. Ungoed-Thomas, Jon and Fielding, Nick (2006-01-29). "ALF threatens all out war against Oxford students". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. http://www.animalliberationfront.us/ALFront/Actions-UK/OxfordWar.htm
  15. "70 year old activist brutally assaulted". SPEAK. 2004-09-12. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. "Thames Valley Police Bully Boys - Swing Into Action!". SPEAK. 2004-06-20. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  17. "Great public support at weekly demo, but petty harassment from police". SPEAK. 2004-10-28. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  18. Carnell, Brian (2004-10-09). "Animal Rights Activists Attacked By Construction Worker at Cambridge". AnimalRights.net. Retrieved 2004-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. "UK. Scientists March in Favor of Animal Laboratory in Oxford". Bloomberg L.P. 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. "YOU'VE BEEN RUMBLED! - National Demo Report". SPEAK. 2006-01-15. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  21. "Biomedical research facility: News". University of Oxford. 2004-07-19. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  22. Pepper, Daile. "March for animal testing". The Sun. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
  23. "Montpellier withdraw from Oxford Animal Lab". SPEAK. 2004-07-20. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. http://www.the-scientist.com/news/20040720/02/
  25. "Application to the High Court for an Order". University of Oxford. 2004-09-07. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  26. "University wins animal rights bid". BBC News. 2004-11-10. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  27. "Oxford University recently obtained an injunction against SPEAK". SPEAK. Retrieved 2006-07-23.
  28. "High Court Ruling". University of Oxford. 2004-11-10. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  29. "'Clear threats' to new Oxford lab". BBC News. 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  30. "Oxford lab injunction tightened". BBC News. 2006-05-26. Retrieved 2006-07-23. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  31. "Speak barred from naming firms". Oxford Mail. 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2006-10-25. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  32. "Marchers outnumber rights activists". The Scotsman. 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2006-07-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  33. "Oxford wins protest injunction case", The Guardian, October 13, 2006, retrieved November 11, 2006
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Non-broadcast adjudication, Advertising Standards Authority, June 21, 2006.
  35. "Firm denies building new animal lab". Oxford Mail. 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2007-09-01. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  36. "Monkey Business in Oxford". SPEAK. Retrieved 2007-09-01.
  37. "Animal rights demonstration". Oxford Mail. 2007-08-31. Retrieved 2007-09-01. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  38. = Oxford Mail "Beware of animal fanatics" Check |url= value (help). 2007-02-27. Retrieved 2007-09-01. Check date values in: |date= (help)

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