Researching the Researchers


(Featured image: primate in transit to laboratory. Credit Mary Bloom)

In the 1980s I did the background research for an anti-vivisection group in Glasgow, Scotland. I researched the researchers in the area around Glasgow. Details of many Doctors can be found on the appropriate Medical Register. Glasgow has a huge number of animal laboratories (second only to London within the U.K.). I spent years at University Libraries searching through Scientific Journals looking for material that was useful.

I have some knowledge of the terminology (I am a Science Technician with a lifelong interest in Science), but a Nurse’s Dictionary is also useful. For example, animals in extreme pain may “exhibit lacrimination” (cry). They may also show signs of “piloerection” (hairs standing on end).

If an anaesthetic is used, that may be only to allow the experimenters to perform “procedures” upon the animal, anaesthetic being withdrawn when the animal has received its “wounds”.

Many experiments involve no anaesthetic at any point.

I was part of a group which finally (after a determined campaign of sit-ins, etc.) got access to a vivisection laboratory in Glasgow. To see the animals and how they were kept. The lab did behavioral studies on rats and lemurs. I had studied basic animal welfare for these animals. I also possessed a copy of the notes for those keeping animals in vivisection laboratories (it was a Government publication). However, I had recently been arrested outside the laboratory – trying to free animals – and was not allowed to visit. I was at the time a member of the Animal Liberation Front. After my arrest, I made an unsuccessful complaint against the Police for alleged Police brutality. I had no witnesses. None of the visitors who were admitted to the lab made any notes or seemingly asked any questions (if you gain access to a lab, you should pass on anything you find out to others, e.g. animal rights people who may use this information).

If you intend to find out what is happening near you, you need to know the name and all the initials of some researchers at your nearby lab (you can find these from University yearbooks, for example). This information is needed to research through the Journals. Specialise in one species and in one type of injury – so you know a bit about what you are talking about. I specialised in primates and in head damage. I thought this would be deemed especially newsworthy.

The most newsworthy research I did, involved the Glasgow end of the experiments done by the University of Pennsylvania‘s Head Injury Clinic in Philadelphia. Before that time no one in Glasgow knew of the experiments or of the Glasgow end of the research. Experiments went on for years and were reported in two different scientific journals that I studied. There was a huge amount of information that could be used by anti-vivisection campaigners (e.g. relating to the type of anaesthetic and whether the type and dose used was sufficient). Primates were given brain damage at the Laboratory in Pennsylvania, then their brains examined afterwards in Labs in Glasgow.

Just after we started campaigning in Glasgow, the Animal Liberation Front in America obtained film of what was going on in the Laboratory in Pennsylvania. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals carried out a campaign against the experiments. They made a film from the footage. If you ever believed that animals are treated with respect during experiments please have a look at the film. A campaigner from PETA visited Glasgow at this time, but the Glasgow based anti-vivisection group never sought to inform me of this and I was not asked to any meetings, even though I had a good understanding of the experiments and of the supposed science behind it. Apart from disagreeing with the morality of the experiments, I found their Scientific methods poor.

See PETA’s film of the University of Pennsylvania experiments:

More information on Wikipedia:

When writing about what happens at a Lab you are researching, please double check with others in your group before releasing anything to the Press. Try to make yourself into a mini-expert on the subject. Someone needs to comment on these experiments and often the only people are animal rights people. Tell the truth and do not exaggerate. People from the Vivisection industry make out that animal rights people are cranks and don’t know what they are talking about. I have found that a rare scenario. But don’t let yourself be the one to make the mistakes. We need to be trusted. Please never write anything which is libelous! Animal exploiters are increasingly going to Court to seek claims against animal rights groups and individuals.

The best thing to do is use lots of quotes. You look scientific and they can hardly sue you for repeating what they wrote in their scientific paper. When carrying out your research, try to work with someone else so you can teach them the skills you have learned. The more experts there are, the better. Also, you don’t want a campaign to be canceled because you move house and no one else understands what is going on. Trust in your ability to research something. However, if after a while you are feeling very low because of what you are doing you may have to stop doing the research and change tasks, e.g. just proofreading press releases by others. When I was doing animal rights research into the Pennsylvania monkey experiments, I could not cope with it emotionally after a year or so.

In Animal Rights – as in life – don’t always leave it to someone else (or some group else) to do something you want done. Sometimes you have to go out and do that research yourself. Or plan that campaign yourself. You have immense potential. Realise it!


I am opposed to all experiments on live animals. I believe that they cost a fortune and that the results are misleading. But the main reason I oppose them is because animals matter. They are more than just beakers or test tubes.

Simply put though, from a scientific perspective: if you experiment on a particular variety of laboratory rat you find out something about that particular variety of laboratory rat. These experiments cost a fortune and laboratories could be doing experiments that are more relevant to the human species.

There are two excellent books that I have read that give the argument against experiments on animals from the standpoint of, “It is bad science which gives misleading results”. The first is: Sacred Cows and Golden Geese by C. Ray Greek MD and Jean Swingle Greek DVM. I have heard them speak and they are brilliant! The other book argues on scientific grounds only and does not ask any moral questions with regard to animals. This book is aimed at those with some knowledge of Science, but is worth reading by the hard working layperson: Vivisection or Science? by Pietro Croce. I have both books and recommend both.

Another book by C. Ray Greek MD and Jean Swingle Greek DVM is available in part on the internet, but I have not read it yet:

Ideas for demonstrations

I believe poetry is a very useful tool. Below I enclose one of my poems which was written one Festive season while looking from a Cafe towards the numerous animal laboratories half a mile away. I have performed the poem below at one of these Universities, and only got a bit of heckling. I am allowed to comment and they are allowed to heckle.

An Action Movie

The Vivisector is the Death Director, shooting in black and white
“Action”, she shouts, “Give me more”
No-one can see through her tightly shut door
That there’s blood on the floor
Do you think she takes the electrodes out of their skulls on this night?
For the festive season, and for no other reason.

Scene one is shot in a prison, the extras mill about
Some are crying and the lifers are dying to get out.

No crackers for the prisoners as they eat their Christmas pie
No cards to browse through as they cough, or limp, or die
With a “Ho Ho Ho”, the rats line up under the mistletoe,
An eye or two missing, too ugly to be kissing
Covered in scars, yet never been in a fight
All singing carols on this Christmas night.

Holding paws in a perfect ring
The cats all dance and the dogs all sing,
“Goodwill and Christmas Cheer
“May we all be Happy at this time of Year”

The Christmas Card demo

This poem was also used at a related event. This is something I have done and it worked well. Firstly, you can perform the poem outside a Laboratory.

Secondly, I also believe it is a good idea for every animal rights group to present (before the eyes of the Press) a Christmas Card to the forgotten experimental animals in the Laboratory. It makes the members of your group find out about the animals inside. It does get Press. You can even be dressed as animal characters or Christmas carolers. Have a giant Card with large print greetings for the animals written on it (so the Press can read it). Present this to someone high up from the Laboratory. If they refuse so much the better, and present it to a Security Guard. Make the card a large but genuine Christmas card. Address it to all the suffering animals in the Lab. Do not write anything offensive. Be polite and respectful. Genuinely write a Card to the animals.

Even if the Card gets dumped, people in the lab will know that someone believes that, animals matter.

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About Author

I am a performance poet. I take part in human rights and animal rights non-violent protests. As a Buddhist I believe in Ahimsa. Click to see author's profile.

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