Updated: Sunday, 26th March 2017 @ 7:40am

Manchester animal rights group turns to MPs for help after protests fail to succeed in lab dog release

Manchester animal rights group turns to MPs for help after protests fail to succeed in lab dog release

By Matt Simpson

A Manchester animal rights group has turned to MPs to change laws regarding testing after a series of unsuccessful protests against a pharmaceutical company.

Unite to Care has been one of several groups campaigning for several months outside AstraZeneca’s Alderley Edge HQ for the release of beagles used in laboratories.

With the most recent protest earlier this week again being met with silence from the company, one volunteer, Luke*, believes their policy of raising awareness and lobbying the government is the best alternative.

“Protesting at AstraZeneca really only scratches the surface,” he said. “That is why we have turned to the MPs, because it needs to be lobbied and changed.

“If we could remove that law, you would hope this would all cease. Contacting MPs and producing petitions is the way forward in getting things changed.”

And to this end, Unite to Care’s founder Victoria Fraser, 36, has produced a petition calling for the compulsory retirement of lab dogs.

If they can find 100,000 signatures, the issue will be debated in parliament and Victoria said the petition is crucial to completing their objectives, but admitted it will be hard work.

“They are massively important because they can be used as a bargaining tool so we can say ‘this is how much support we have got’,” she said.

“But this is the way we have to do it if we want things to change. We all know getting legislation to change is no easy thing. 

“It is one hard slog but this petition is the best way to try and get those questions asked.”

Currently the petition is in its infancy and Victoria revealed she is stepping up her efforts to advertise it, but without compromising the principle on which Unite to Care was founded.

“I have got closer with a lot more groups to try and advertise the petition,” she explained.

“But we are quite cautious in who we work with as we want to stick to the principle that Unite to Care is for everybody. We are not extremists – we are just the same as everybody else.”

John Leech, Liberal Democrat MP for Withington and a long-time advocate of ending scientific and cosmetic animal testing, has been vocal in expressing his concerns to the government.

In his office, only products which conform to animal welfare standards can be used and he has lobbied for the House of Commons to do the same as well as signing various Early Day Motions.

And Mr Leech, who sits on the Animals in Medical Experimentation all-party parliamentary group, has called for more transparency for the public and believes they have the right to peacefully air their views.

“I have longed argued for a ban on animal testing for beauty and household products, and more transparency about who is performing animal test and why,” he said.

“And I support the right of animal rights pressure groups to lobby, petition and peacefully protest against animal testing.”

Unfortunately for Unite to Care, their protests at AstraZeneca have not been as successful as Victoria would have liked, but she revealed they are still working towards a first UK beagle release.

“We have had no luck with AstraZeneca so far, she said. “There has been little or no dialogue with them and they have flatly refused any request.

“So far we have managed to free a dog in Albania and she comes to the country at the end of the month. We are still working towards our first UK release, which is going well.”

But volunteer Luke, 39, from Runcorn, feels despite having no dialogue with AstraZeneca the protests have still been successful in making the public aware of the issue and that attitudes need to change.

“I think the protests have been massive in raising awareness,” he added. “When we first got involved with it there was maybe 50 people.

“Now there are 2,500. You have to make it fashionable not to do it and if you can do that you have everybody on your side.

“That is the biggest message you can get out.”

Luke, who helps Unite to Care with various on-line tasks, was disappointed at the lack of dialogue but explained it was not due to lack of effort from the protesters.

“It is hard to put into words how disappointing it really is that they did not have the time to correspond with us,” he added.

“With big corporations, they get so big trying to get hold of a person with authority is harder than trying to get through to somebody that will just spare some time.”

According to Luke, a former employee of AstraZeneca walked out of her job upon finding out about animal testing, which he feels shows the strength of feeling it can produce.

“She didn’t know about the animal testing at the time when she went in on a clerical job,” he said.

“She was told in her training there was animal testing and she just upped sticks and walked out as she was dead against it.

“It shows how deep this issue can run.”

For more information on Unite to Care visit www.unitetocare.com  or to sign the petition, visit http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/48694

*Surname withheld on request.

Picture courtesy of kristin_a, with thanks

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