The Newchurch Guinea Pigs: Saved!
from No Compromise Issue 28

Six years ago, Animal Liberation Front operatives crept slowly into sheds on a farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire. Inside they found hundreds upon hundreds of albino guinea pigs destined for labs across Europe. Some were already dead, killed because they were too sick to produce a profit for their captors. But others were alive, and soon they were spirited away by their shadowy new friends to a life of freedom.

News of this liberation spread quickly amongst activists. Soon, this small facility in a tiny village would become infamous worldwide. Its owners, Hall & Partners, would go on to attack protestors with impunity, while people holding signs were banned from the entire town. Huge legal battles ensued, the media panicked about “animal rights extremism” and some activists went to jail. Eventually, a body even disappeared from a graveyard, an act blamed on animal activists (even though no evidence ever surfaced to support this claim).

And then all at once the news broke: David Hall and the other owners were throwing in the towel after being in business for 40 years. In interviews, they stated that the constant activity of animal rights activists forced them to close and that this was a victory for the tactics of intimidation. (They failed, of course, to mention their own violence against animal rights activists and the guinea pigs.)

Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP), the group behind much of the aboveground pressure campaign decided to turn its next demonstration into a victory march through the streets of nearby Burton and Trent.

The Staffordshire police gathered and passed out copies of relevant injunctions to everyone arriving for the demonstration. Meanwhile, 300 people from across England wearing t-shirts with the word “SAVED” across the chest near an image of guinea pigs, assembled to hear Dr. Steven Best deliver a speech. Sadly, he had been banned from England, so the crowd instead listened to an SNGP member read a letter Dr. Best had sent.

The march started soon afterward. Out of respect for the victims of vivisection, the march was silent for its first half, save for the slow beat of a single drummer. Once respects were paid to the dead, the celebration for the living began. The march burst into cheers of victory and people began dancing down the street, jubilant after six years of frontlines protesting.

The police couldn’t stand to see animal rights activists win, so of course they stepped in to arrest some people. The first was a young woman, only 13 years old. Her crime? Passing out leaflets in violation of England’s draconian anti-animal rights laws. The others arrested committed the crime of attempting to reason with police officers during the first arrest.

Newchurch may be closing, and that is a wonderful thing, but there are still guinea pigs in those sheds. Members of SNGP have vowed to keep up the pressure until the remaining animals are handed over to be rehomed. Furthermore, animals are in need elsewhere, and members of the Newchurch campaign have promised to aid in other campaigns.

The battle continues, but for now the movement can celebrate this small skirmish and smile knowing that our blood and sweat have brought peace to a few more lives.