MORE than 400 animal rights protesters marched through the city today to call for an end to Oxford University’s ‘cruel’ use of animal testing.

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Organised by local group Speak and marking the 40th anniversary of World Day for Animals in Laboratories, campaigners from across the country came together in Oxpens Park armed with attention-grabbing signs, banners and several donning animal costumes.

Oxford Mail:

The group then marched through the city centre, past tourists and shoppers in Cornmarket and Broad Street, blasting horns and chanting 'it's not science, it's torture' before holding a rally outside the University’s biomedical sciences building in South Parks Road.

Mel Broughton, from Speak and a campaigner for more than 30 years, told those gathered at any one time 16,000 animals were being experimented on by Oxford University. He added: "This outdated science has no place in the 21st century."

Oxford Mail:

Speaking to the Oxford Mail after the march, he said: “We were very pleased with the turnout, which was up on the last couple of years and it's a clear indication people are taking the issue seriously again and we will build on that."

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One animal saved from testing is Scarlett the Beagle who attended the march with owners Phil and Janie Green from Essex.

Mr Green said: “Scarlett was rescued from a toxicology lab in Hungary where she spent the first two and half years of her life."

Oxford Mail:

He added the canine still suffered from PTSD but was now having the chance to 'be a dog'.

His wife said: "It's cruel what is done to these animals and the evidence shows aside from it being unethical it doesn't even work."

A statement from Oxford University said in 2018 there were 219,551 procedures carried out using animals in the city.

It added: "81.8 per cent (179,548) of all procedures were classed as sub-threshold, non-recovery or mild, involving minimal pain or suffering for the animals (these could include tagging wild animals for conservation research or breeding genetically modified mice).

"The vast majority of all animals used in research in 2018 were mice, rats and zebrafish (99.7 per cent or 218,817 procedures)."

It went on to say technological advances were offering an increasing range of alternatives to animal research, and added: "We are pleased to say that research on animals only forms a small part of the University’s overall programme of biomedical research.

"The majority of our research is currently carried out using either in-vitro techniques or the study of human beings. However, we are not yet at the point where these techniques or computer modelling could entirely replace the need for animal research."

"While some animal research is still essential for medical progress, any researcher planning to use animals in their research must first show why there is no alternative and what will be done to minimise numbers and suffering.

"Consequently, we are committed to the three Rs: replacing the use of animals with alternative techniques, or avoiding the use of animals altogether; reducing the number of animals used to a minimum; and refining the way experiments are carried out, to make sure animals suffer as little as possible."

"The University has consistently been at the forefront of innovative and life-saving science, in areas including cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, HIV, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and many more diseases that cause suffering and death.

"Our policy is to minimise the use of animals in research, consistent with our ongoing commitment to make significant advances on important problems of human health. Where animal research is necessary, the University provides housing and care that always meets and wherever possible exceeds the legal requirements."

Oxford Mail:

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It was a day for activism of all kinds in the city, with members of Extinction Rebellion also hoping to encourage more people to get involved in its climate change campaign following the group’s two weeks of action in London this month.

Oxford Mail:

Alice Bloom said the response from shoppers in the Westgate Centre had been ‘really positive’, adding: “I’ve only got involved recently after seeing the protests in London. I wasn’t apathetic but that really opened my eyes.”

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Freya Hanley said the Oxford group had gone from 26 members to more than 170 following the London protests, which saw 20 Oxford rebels arrested and major disruption to transport. Activist Ben Kenward said ahead of the Saturday event the Oxford group were currently 'communicating without disrupting' in the city.