Hundreds of people took to Brighton streets on Saturday to raise awareness of animal testing at two English sites. An estimated 300 strong march travelled to Brighton from as far afield as France, Belgium, and Italy to hear speeches from organisers and supporters. Styled as a funeral procession, the group honoured the animals by dressing in black and remaining silent.
So many protests alienate outsiders: angry chants and graphic images may maximise a message’s shock value, but this can also lose support from a mass audience. ‘Save the Harlan Beagles’ believe that dignified processions have a greater resonance to gain recognition for their cause.
Prior to the march 42,000 people had signed a petition to close Harlan down, and hope that Saturday’s march will gain even more support.
An estimated twelve beagles die each day as a result of poor conditions and ill-treatment. In 2011 The Sunday Times exposed Harlan’s neglect, with staff being witnessed physically abusing the beagles. The animals were reported to live in cramped and dirty cages, and were often so distressed they would harm themselves or others.
Harlan’s two sites are Hillcrest in Loughborough, where the animals are prepared for vivisection by blood-draining; and Cambridgeshire’s Interfauna, where beagles are sold to laboratories and universities for thousands of pounds. The experiments are to test medicines, cosmetics, and garden pesticides.
Concerns have been raised over to what extent animal testing furthers science. Few products tested on the dogs reach the human market, and thus the group see the sufferings as futile. ‘We are pro-animal and we are pro-modern science,’ said one organiser. She sees animal testing as hindering the progress of modern medical breakthroughs.
Spurred on by the backing of Caroline Lucas earlier in the week, Brighton was an apt setting for the march. The Brighton Pavilion MP is also Vice Chair of Parliament’s All Party Group on Animal Welfare, and also a Vice President of the RSPCA.
She said, ‘To prevent animals such as the Harlan beagles from enduring any more unnecessary suffering, we now need political action to ensure far more is done to keep up with rapidly changing techniques and to replace animal testing with viable alternatives’.
Brighton and Hove City Council’s Deputy Leader, Phélim Mac Cafferty, attended the march in support of the campaigners. ‘The Green Party is fiercely proud of saying that we believe in a world where animals are above profit,” he said. “The way we treat the other creatures on our planet speaks volumes not just about us, but about the sort of world we want to see in our future’.
As a result of the growing awareness of the sufferings of the Harlan Beagles, the organisers have been invited to attend Westminster with Nic Dakin, the Chair of the All Party Committee for the Replacement of Animals in Medical Experimentation.
An organiser thanked attendees: ‘Without your support meetings like this in parliament would not be possible because governments only listen when large numbers of the national community voice their call for change’.
To find out more about the campaign, visit Save the Harlan Beagles
Images courtesy of Ellie Harvey