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
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.