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FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT - Oxford Animal lab one year on

We in the animal rights movement have a lot to be proud of. Exactly twelve months ago on the 19th July 2004, Montpellier - contracted to build the laboratory in South Parks Rd - downed tools and issued a statement saying they would no longer be associated with the construction of the new animal research laboratory at Oxford University. No other contractor has yet been found to replace them, despite numerous rumours to the contrary. Twelve months down the line, the skeleton of the laboratory stands abandoned - a monument to greed and academic curiosity, rather than a monument to real science. But like every monument, slowly and surely, it will disintegrate.

After the victory by the animal rights movement in Cambridge, few could have believed that success would come so quickly once SPEAK moved its sights to Oxford University, but as at Cambridge, the forces bent on upholding archaic science crumbled. What we are now witnessing is a slow turning of the tide as the animal rights movement gathers more support, and the vivisectors creed is forced to take a defensive stance against the onslaught, as it experiences the marginalisation of what it represents. What inroads we continue to make in this regard is down to the collective determination and unity of everyone within the movement.

In this world where accolades and awards go to the butchers of medical research using animals, whose positions and livelihoods remain unaffected even when exposed for cruelty and malpractices, those that choose compassion over self-interest and greed are vilified in the press, lose their jobs over the lies disseminated about them, and are dragged through the Law Courts. Over the last twelve months, animal rights campaigners and various named groups including SPEAK have fought off a sustained campaign of harassment and intimidation by those serving and upholding the status quo - the very same status quo that uses taxpayers' money to prop up a fraudulent science that causes the countless deaths of humans and non-humans worldwide each year.

While non-humans die in vivisection laboratories in their billions so that manufacturers can 'prove' that the drugs work and are safe, thousands upon thousands of humans die from adverse reactions to these 'safe' drugs to show that the drugs don't work. Calibrating that information, we can assume that the world's oyster is the scientist's vivisection laboratory. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. And again. And again. After the laboratory, the third world. After the third world, the west. If they're lucky, no-one finds out, and the cash till keeps ringing.

Yet despite the fiscal power derived from these ill-gotten gains, the illusion of their power is weakening; we know why they're tightening the screws. Every time they tighten them more on us, we know we're still getting to them. And that's the point - it's going to cost us plenty, but in the end we know we're going to win. And we're going to win because we stand for something visionary.

What we have to do now is stand our ground, and gather strength from what we have already achieved. We are winning the battle, there is no doubt about that. The growing support from ordinary members of public proves that. The vested interest groups, whether it be Lord Sainsbury, with huge shares - in among others - the biochemical industry, or the Labour Government kow-towing to the pharmaceutical industry and doing their bidding, or the newspapers - the lackeys of the various interest groups or the pharmaceutical companies themselves more interested in making a quick buck than finding cures - all of these will continue to work in unison to try and destroy us by whatever means they deem necessary. But Cambridge and Oxford proved that as a movement we are as powerful as the combined might of those vested interest groups as long as we remain united. That unity, combined with determination and strategy, is all we need to win.

"At no time has a new criticism of the limits of pure reason been more imperatively needed (...) to fight against vivisection is to fight against the principal fortress of the foe of idealism and spiritual evolution. Not until this fortress lies shattered, and even its ruins are removed from the face of this earth, can we justly claim to possess civilisation".

The Shambles of Science, Hageby and Schartau, 1903.

The Oxford laboratory project, its shell still standing abandoned a year today, could easily be a symbol of that "fortress" to which anti-vivisectionists Hageby and Schartau refer; their words hold as true today as they did over 100 years ago. We and the rest of the world would be foolish to ignore those sentiments. Medical progress is hampered because of vivisection. The moral progress of our society is equally hampered if these atrocities are allowed to continue. The question is not whether science is a necessary evil, but whether a science based on the suffering of countless sentient beings can ever be justified. The price for all of us is simply too high.

The importance of rekindling values like community, cooperation and openness is ever more vital and urgent in our society. Historically, Oxford failed once before to judge the mood of their people. They appear to have done so again. Living in the 21st century is - or at least should be - about salvaging our humanity, about living openly in the world. In the 21st century, the role of the anti-vivisectionist is to be the voice of reason, morality and clear judgement. We stand at the gateway of a new and more humane science offered by alternatives that harm no living creature. We just need a final push to open it.

So let's "stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage" and get out there and finish the job started so many years ago.

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