Stars from Harry Potter, Downton Abbey and Made in Chelsea have recreated an historic moment of protest in the UK’s animal protection movement – as they join calls for an end to animal testing in the UK.

Evanna Lynch, Lucy Watson and Lesley Nicol recreate classic photo
Evanna Lynch, Lucy Watson and Lesley Nicol recreate classic photo

Evanna Lynch – Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter film series – Made in Chelsea’s Lucy Watson, and Lesley Nicol, who played Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey, have teamed up with animal protection campaigners Cruelty Free International, Animal Free Research and Scotland’s OneKind to re-enact an iconic animal rights demonstration from 100 years ago.

The original photo
The original photo

The historic photo was captured in 1919 when three women from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, today Cruelty Free International, protested in Parliament Square while the Dogs (Protection) Bill was being debated in Parliament. Cruelty Free International, Animal Free Research UK and OneKind all have their roots in the century old feminist led anti-vivisection movement.

The three stars stepped back in time to recreate the powerful scene as the latest UK Government statistics on animal testing released today for 2020, provide a stark reminder that millions of animals, including dogs and cats, are still subjected to cruel testing as they were a century ago.

Shockingly, the number of procedures performed on dogs (3%), cats (11%), rabbits (11%) and horses (3%) have all risen, revealing there is still no concerted effort to reduce the number of these experiments. The number of experiments on horses has increased by 29% in the last decade alone.

The statistics reveal that 115 experiments were conducted on dogs to satisfy plant protection product legislation, which is likely to include pesticides testing, and 9 experiments were conducted on dogs to satisfy industrial chemical legislation. There has also been a 77% increase in the use of rhesus macaques.

While the Home Office statistics note a decrease in the total number of procedures from 3.4 million to 2.9 million, the government itself largely attributes this to the pandemic and the two national lockdowns.

Cruelty Free International, Animal Free Research UK and OneKind today urge the UK public to join their #TargetZero action and to sign the petition which calls on the government to ends its reliance on Victorian science – and instead, embrace human-specific methods to discover treatments and cures for disease, illnesses, and to ensure cruelty free product safety. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/590216

Lucy Watson says: “Progress must be made – I can’t believe that women were fighting for justice for animals reduced to unnecessary animal testing over 100 years ago and here we are today, protesting about the same issue! It’s shocking to think that so many animal experiments are unnecessary, yet they still occur and cause a great deal of distress and harm for helpless animals. Very few people know the extent of the problem, so I really hope that this campaign helps to draw attention to the issue. The more it’s talked about, the more likely things will change.”

Lesley Nicol says: “It’s horrifying to know how many animal experiments take place each year in the UK. To know that so many are unnecessary breaks my heart. In the 1900s people were fighting for animal experiments to stop and fast forward 118 years, here we are again… So why hasn’t a change been made? With modern science evolving, it’s beyond my comprehension that scientists, universities and brands haven’t made more of an effort to replace animal experiments.”

Evanna Lynch says: “I have been campaigning for animal rights for the past decade, yet this issue remains one of the biggest issues in animal welfare that urgently needs to be addressed. The UK carries out more animal experiments than most countries in Europe, but this doesn’t have to the be case. We can – and should – be leaders in paving the way for ethical, effective experiments that don’t cruelly exploit animals. I hope that the comparisons drawn between the 1900s and present day demonstrates the urgent need to rethink how we treat animals in science.”

Analysis by Cruelty Free International reveals that (discounting this year’s unusual drop) the overall number of animal experiments has only fallen by 1% annually over the past 10 years If the UK continues on its current trajectory, animal testing will not be phased out for at least another century.

Michelle Thew, Chief Executive Officer of Cruelty Free International, says: “We’re very grateful to Evanna, Lucy and Lesley for helping us recreate this image from 100 years ago. Whilst we of course welcome any drop in the number of experiments on animals, this year’s reported drop can be attributed to the impact of national lockdowns on laboratories not because the government has been doing more to end this cruelty. We must now build on this decrease and make sure the number never goes back up again. That’s why we’re supporting the Target Zero petition so the British public can express their support for ending this cruelty once and for all.”

Carla Owen, Chief Executive Officer of Animal Free Research UK, says: “It should not take a global pandemic to see fewer animals suffering in UK laboratories. We owe it to the millions of animals who have suffered for negligible human benefit to end the century of unimaginable pain in UK laboratories. If Britain is to become a science superpower it must lead by example. We have human and human-relevant scientific techniques at our disposal that were recently in the realm of science fiction, that hold the key to reversing decades of failure and turning research into successful human therapies and cures. The UK government must, therefore, act to fully embrace this modern science, accelerate the use of animal free research and aim for target zero animal experiments, starting today.”

Bob Elliot, Director of OneKind, says: "The UK Government must commit to and prioritise a phase-out of animal experimentation. Our Target Zero campaign is calling for them to support science, not “Animals used in research are legally subjected to pain and suffering that would be both illegal and repugnant if applied to our companion animals. That is why the UK Government must commit to and prioritise a phase-out of animal experimentation. Our Target Zero campaign is calling for the UK Government to support science, not suffering.”

To sign the Gov.UK petition, click here.

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