On a wet dreary day back in September, 200 activists gathered in Ledbury to peacefully protest their opposition to Sequani Limited. In the week leading up to the protest West Mercia Police were in the local media desperately trying to contact the ‘organisers’ of the demonstration.

So who is Sequani Limited, and why were the police unable to speak to anyone associated with the protest?

Previously known as Toxicol Laboratories UK and Quintiles England, Sequani Limited has used the same site in Ledbury for over 20 years. The companies website claims that it is “helping to develop medicines of the future and improve health worldwide”. What is not immediately obvious from the glossy corporate website is that Sequani use animals to test various drugs, chemicals and medical devises. Among the animals that the laboratory uses are dogs, rabbits, mice, hamsters, rats and pigs. All these animals suffer a life of imprisonment, suffering and fear.

Unfortunately for these animals, years of misinformation have left many people thinking that testing on animals—vivisection—is the only way to progress medicine. The facts tell a different story. Tens of thousands of people suffered side effects from Thalidomide although it was deemed safe after being tested on animals. More recently the diabetes treatment Rezulin was withdrawn after it was found to cause liver failure in humans; it had also been tested on animals. These are only two of the many examples of drugs that were deemed safe for human consumption after animal testing only too find that they caused terrible side effects.

The alternative non-animal research methods, such as using human tissue or computer simulations, are available and are increasingly being used. The problem is that, under current laws, new drugs must be treated on animals before they are given licences.

Being opposed to vivisection does not mean you have to stop using treatments that were discovered through animal testing. There are many things in our society that came about through exploitation. This country, for example, earned vast sums of money from the slave trade. But we can’t change the past, all we can do is change the future.

So why were the cops looking for organisers of the protest? This comes down to the repression handed out to those involved in the campaign and in particular someone called Sean Kirtley. Sean had campaigned tirelessly against animal abuse and was running the Stop Sequani Animal Testing website when his house was raided in 2006. He was charged under the new repressive SOCPA legislation with ‘conspiracy to interfere with contractual relationships so as to harm animal research organisation’. In line with the continued erosion of civil liberties in this country Sean’s peaceful protesting was deemed illegal and he was jailed for four years—yes, four years!

So that is why the cops were unable to contact any organisers. The activists no longer have ‘leaders’ or ‘organisers’ for the police to prosecute. But the campaign continues.

On the day itself, the 200 activists battled through rain and over zealous policing to get their message across: ‘Every six seconds an animal dies’.

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