Anti-animal-testing demonstration in honour of founder Joan Court

Noella Chye 9 April 2017

Passersby outside Senate House on Saturday were met with the sight of people dressed in flesh-coloured bodysuits, splattered with red paint mimicking fresh blood, collapsed on the street, and other times jammed into tiny metal cages. Behind them stood others dressed in lab coats, similarly stained red, holding signs which read “Bred to suffer” and “Stop animal holocaust”, amongst others. This was the work of Animal Rights Cambridge, which organised a vigil in memory of its founder Joan Court, who passed away on December 1st last year aged 97. Campaigner Sue Hughes, who spoke at the rally, explained, “We held this event in memory of our lovely Joan Court, and we tried to hold it as close to her birthday (on April 13) as we could”, Cambridge News reports.

Joan Court began campaigning for animal rights in 1978, after being handed a leaflet about animal vivisection from Animal Aid, one of the world’s longest established animal rights groups. The next day, she founded the local group Animal Rights Cambridge, and went on to involve herself with a relentless effort to raise awareness and fight for animal rights. Animal Aid reports, “Her specialty was attention grabbing stunts, which were made all the more irresistible to the media because of her age. Her animal campaigning didn’t start until she was nearly 60 but there were frequent banner hangs from high places, public hunger strikes, sit-downs in inconvenient places, and she would make speeches and give interviews in which she refused to apologise for radical direct action or for those who carried them out – although she was opposed to violence.” In 2002, she was presented with the Lord Houghton Award, an award for one’s special contribution to animal welfare, in recognition of her tireless efforts. 

Today, Animal Rights Cambridge runs four primary campaigns: Stop the Badger Cull, Fur-Free Cambridge, Lobster Liberation Campaign and Sick 2 Death, a campaign which seeks to raise awareness about the use of genetically-modified (GM) mice in scientific experiments and the suffering these animals endure even before the experiments start. It boasts the cancellation of building the Girton Lab, which was set to be Europe’s biggest primate lab, and making Michelin Star restaurant Midsummer House drop foie gras from their menu, as well as closure of the foie gras stall in Cambridge market as some of their achievements.