Fur Flies At Cat Demo
On April 18th, at Hillgrove Farm in Oxfordshire, activists opposed to the breeding of cats for vivisection gathered for World Day for Laboratory Animals. Anger erupted, not only at the breeding of cats for vivisection, but also at the use of Thames Valley Police heavy-handed tactics.
Squall 16, Summer 1998, pp. 26-27.
Farmer Brown has quite a lucrative business. Cats may not seem a regular kind of livestock. But a single kitten can yield him up to £400 a time at his particular market.
For the last 30 years Christopher Brown has churned out cats and kittens for medical research laboratories from his ‘farm’ in Hillgrove in Oxfordshire.
Campaigners say his cats never get to see the light of day; that stress is so intense, ten per cent of kittens are eaten by their mothers; that kittens as young as two weeks are sent off to laboratories; and that females are bred continuously until they die.
Their only escape from the farm is to a laboratory, where the misery, no doubt, continues; with torture and cruelty practised under the guise of medical research.
But for the last eight months the chickens, so to speak, have been coming home to Farmer Brown to roost.
The 60 year-old entrepreneur has found himself and his farm increasingly besieged by regular national protests which have grown in size from a few hundred demonstrators to over 3,000. There have been all night vigils and daily pickets.
The aim, quite simply, is to put him out of business - a tactic successfully practised at the beagle breeding Consort Kennel near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire.
So far they have managed to reduce his workforce to three original workers from eleven.
Policing costs currently stand at between half and one million pounds. Before the last national demonstration, on April 18, World Day for Animals, the police informed the media they were prepared for trouble.
“Our opinion is that it will be violent,” Assistant Chief Constable Tim Davidson, of Thames Valley police, said. “We expect the vast majority will be lawful and will act peacefully. But it will be no surprise if a significant minority are unlawful and violent.”
There have been ‘unlawful’ acts in the past. In January 1997 the farm was raided by protestors and a number of animals ‘liberated’. Three people were arrested and tried. Two were acquitted. But one, Kevin Hickey, was sentenced to 12 months for ‘handling stolen goods’.
So to counter the threat of ‘violence and unlawfulness’, the police erected a twelve feet high fence with watchtowers around the cat sheds. The significant minority pulled them down and smashed Farmer Brown’s windows and roof.
Campaigners say the police presence has been over-the -top and heavy-handed. On one occasion 494 police turned up to control a vigil crowd of 34. “Thames Valley Police are living in a PR nightmare,” said one campaigner: “The police are seen as Brown’s own private security guards.”
Brown denies any mistreatment of animals. He says they are in “first-class condition”, that he is not involved in vivisection and vivisection would not stop if he closed. But his denials don’t wash with the campaigners.
“This campaign is winning,” they say. “Hillgrove Farm will close. The police are desperate and most people want to see an end to the cats’ suffering.”
• Kevin Hickey is at HMP Springhill, Grendon Underwood, Aylesbury, Bucks, (AP7904).
• For information on demos etc contact: Save the Hillgrove Cats, Box CB, 111 Magdelene Road, Oxford, OX4 1RQ. Tel: 0121 632 6460.