As your average meat-eating housewife of 45, I could watch a lamb in a field, and still down a lamb chop – until I joined the National Council of Woman in 1971. Their 13 special committees included Science & Technology (vivisection) and Animal Welfare (factory farming). My life changed. I soon became vegetarian and later vegan.
In 1977 I set up Camberley & District Animal Rights Group (CADARG). Our first campaign was against live exports. We ran it by providing free information from an empty shop.
There followed trips to Club Row in the East End (death row for dogs), where puppies and kittens were sold from cardboard boxes in all weathers. The protests resulted in a ban on the sale of animals from street markets.
When Jean Pink set up Animal Aid – such excitement! Marches in Oxford, Cambridge, Porton Down, Babraham, facing the public – all this was new. With five local labs, we had plenty of targets. We organised a funeral procession of cars around the five sites, covered in posters and black balloons and led by a hearse. Then we staged a pilgrimage along the Pilgrims Way from Winchester Cathedral to Guildford, ending with an animal service and leafleting at Guildford Cathedral.
We have kept going. As part of Animal Aid’s livestock market campaign, we spent hours monitoring Guildford Market and the nearby slaughterhouse. With funds from a collection in Guildford we delivered a water trough to the market with an attached plaque.
During these 30 years I have seen Animal Aid grow from a small start in Jean Pink’s kitchen – limited to vivisection – to a professional, effective organisation publishing well-researched reports which can be relied on for reference.
Have things changed this time? We have had a number of successes but vivisection is rising, factory farming is entrenched, the government’s crackdown makes peaceful protests difficult. But attitudes have altered since I first set up stalls in 1977. More and more people are becoming vegan and, in spite of some bad publicity, we are still a force to be reckoned with.