I think it was about 1989. A cargo of beagle dogs suffocated to death on a ferry bound from the UK to a drug company laboratory in Sweden. The supplier was a breeding kennels called Perrycroft, located in the picturesque little Worcestershire town of Malvern.
It was one of those unpredictable media moments when there is a sudden furore against animal cruelty. After all, these were British dogs about to be poisoned to death in foreign laboratories!
Animal Aid sprang quickly into action – something that has always been one of its strengths. A newspaper advert produced an astonishing response. A dedicated local group organised stalls and a public meeting was called. Local opinion was almost completely on our side.
As the Director at the time, I travelled up to speak at a demonstration outside the kennels, but we were badly delayed and the rally was almost over by the time I arrived. I started to run down a grassy hill that offered a short cut to Perrycroft, tucked away on a quiet track beneath.
Halfway down the hill, I tripped over a clump of grass, fell, and rolled down the slope, finally landing close to the demonstrators. I looked up at a sea of laughing faces.
Despite this spectacularly undignified contribution, the campaign was a success. Persistent protests and local support led to the kennel’s closure a few months later.
Outright victories such as Perrycroft have not been that rare over the last 30 years – the abolition of compulsory school dissection, a ban on pet markets and more recently the end of pet sales at Focus D-I-Y and Wyevale Garden Centres, are a handful that immediately spring to mind. But neither have they been as common as we would have liked. The fight against animal cruelty is a long hard struggle. It seems to me that the real achievement has been the enormous increase in awareness, reflected in the massive rise in vegetarianism, the decline of animal circuses and fur, and the animal-friendly policies of companies such as the Co-op. While Animal Aid can’t take all the credit, it can certainly claim to have played an influential role.