Posted on the 6th July 2006

A new group of Oxford University members and graduates called VERO (Voice for Ethical Research at Oxford) has sent an open letter to the Vice Chancellor of the University challenging its decision to build the new £20 million animal research centre.

Founder member Sharon Howe, who returned her MA degree to the University earlier this year in a protest reported in the national press, believes that the project fails to take into account growing public and political concern over the ethical justification and scientific validity of animal experimentation, and that the money would be much better spent on developing cutting-edge, non-animal techniques.

Speaking on behalf of VERO, Sharon said:

‘Unless resources are invested and a new generation of scientists trained in modern alternatives, we will not be able to make the progress on humane research which is now widely acknowledged as necessary and desirable. We therefore call on our University, as one of the top academic institutions in the country, to lead the way in this field.’

For further information about VERO, contact Sharon Howe at

The letter is reproduced below:


Dr John Hood Vice Chancellor Oxford University c/o University Offices Wellington Square Oxford OX1 2JD

Dear Vice Chancellor,

I recently wrote to you returning my MA degree certificate in protest at the construction of the new animal research laboratory at Oxford University, for reasons explained in two articles published in the national press. I write today on behalf of the above organisation, a new group of Oxford University members and graduates campaigning for a more ethically responsible approach to biomedical research at Oxford. We are greatly concerned that our University ‘one of the top academic institutions in the country’ should be investing £20 million in this project when it could be leading the way on much-needed humane alternatives.

We oppose the construction of the new laboratory on both moral and scientic grounds. Vivisection – by definition – subjects animals to considerable pain, stress and lasting harm, and there is also a growing body of evidence that animals are neither safe nor suitable models for studying human diseases. 240 MPs have already signed an Early Day Motion calling for an independent evaluation of the scientific validity of animal experimentation ? a move that would be welcomed by 83% of GPs, according to a survey by Europeans for Medical Progress. These are factors which the University should surely be taking into account.

Given this evolution in both scientific thinking and public attitudes, we call on the University to redirect the funds earmarked for the laboratory to directly relevant, human-based research. Unless resources are invested and a new generation of scientists trained in such techniques, we will not be able to make the progress on alternatives which is now widely acknowledged as necessary and desirable. Here is an ideal opportunity for the University to develop a centre of excellence worthy of its reputation as a seat of enlightened and humane thought.

We are writing this as an open letter as we believe this issue to be a matter of public interest which should be as transparent as possible. We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Sharon Howe BA, St Hilda’s College
Matthew Simpson MA (Oxon), University College
Richard Whitehead MA (Oxon), MPhil (Oxon), Queen’s College
Stephanie Pendock BA, St Hilda’s College
MacDonald Daly DPhil, Wolfson College
Ben Hartshorn BA, St John’s College
Paul Roberts BA, St John’s College
Michael Maas BA, New College
Andrew Spring BA, Exeter College
Clare Palmer BA, Trinity College, DPhil, Wolfson/Queen’s College
Jerry Spring BA, Exeter College
Lisa Miner MA (Oxon), St Hugh’s College
Caroline Cole MPhil, Lady Margaret Hall
Katy Limmer BA, St Hilda’s College
Nathan Hartshorn BA, New College
Katherine Morris, Fellow in Philosophy, Mansfield College
Helen Barr, English Tutor, Lady Margaret Hall
Roberta Staples, Librarian, Lady Margaret Hall
Martin Hennig, Supernumerary Fellow, Wolfson College
Sue Vice DPhil, New College
Stephen R.L.Clark, D.Phil., M.A. (Balliol & All Souls)

Richard Ryder PhD (former Senior Clinical Psychologist at Warneford Hospital,Oxford)
Caroline Lucas, Green MEP
Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

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