The Journal of History     Summer 2006    TABLE OF CONTENTS

The RDS on the Run!

Since SPEAK launched its campaign in Oxford, the Research Defence Society (RDS) has seen fit to throw in its tuppence worth at every available opportunity, with their new boy, Simon Festing, attempting to pull increasingly cheap publicity stunts - which have either backfired or died a death - to defend the pro-vivisection stance. Far from convincing the public as to the need for vivisection, these amateur theatrics have highlighted that the purpose of this organisation is to protect those with a vested interest in the continued abuse of animals in medical research and a system designed to increase the profits of those involved in vivisection. The continuance of that system essentially means that it is not in their interests to find, say, a REAL cure for cancer. Disease - particularly incurable disease - is a mainstay for the pharmaceutical, and ensures a steady flow of funding from the public sector of large donations and legacies to charities raising money for research. Disease is big business, whilst a cure-all is not.

Essentially then, when we strip the provivisectionists' argument down to the bare bones, we find that they are struggling to defend the indefensible. A task not for the faint-hearted and one, might we suggest, that would be better suited to a wilier fellow than our Mr Festing, who seems to lurch from one PR disaster to another in his attempts to undermine the scientific arguments against vivisection. One is forced to wonder: what sad little ditty will he dance to next?

Were the RDS seriously equipped with the scientific facts to back up their position, they would, one assumes, welcome the call by the anti-vivisection movement for an independent inquiry into vivisection. Furthermore, the RDS has resorted to lying its way out of corners in order to regain public sympathy for what it represents. Buffoonery, it seems, has not yet succeeded in the winning coup, for Mr Festing is no Alistair Campbell, a man who successfully steered the 'New' Labour Party down a road of half-truths and downright lies.

Unable to spin anything more complicated than a wooden top, Mr Festing has been something of a spectator sport as he has staggered from one SPEAK event to another, like our very own little mascot.

At the SPEAK national demo in January, Mr Festing attempted to undermine the event by exploiting and parading patients with a variety of diseases in front of media cameras. Despite having 2 months to prepare a counter demo, Mr Festing and the RDS were only able to muster less than a dozen people - people duped into believing that a cure for their illnesses can only be found by torturing animals. A poor show of strength compared to the 500 or more people marching to protest against the South Parks development.

Next on the radar for Simon was Joan Court's Hunger Strike. Once again, he had two months to prepare his coup de grace, and not only did he arrive late, but his counter-demonstration was two-strong, with him dragging an MS sufferer around the streets of Oxford in an attempt to get in on the act.

Finally, possibly Simon's greatest blunder to date - and we do like to save the best till last - was the follow-up to a public debate at Oxford Town Hall on 21st April, attended by 150 people. Dotted around the room filming the event were at least half a dozen film cameras belonging to the organisers and to local TV stations.

The debate was chaired by Tony Benn, and the atmosphere was cordial, with most people respecting the need for debate on the question of vivisection. Dr Jarrod Bailey, Science wDirector of Europeans for Medical Progress, and Professor Claude Reiss, its Science Consultant, represented the anti-vivisection lobby. On the panel arguing in favour of animal research was Oxford vivisector Prof.... (who cannot be named under the conditions of our injunction), our friend Mr Festing and Mike Robins, a Parkinson's disease sufferer.

In an Observer article nearly a month later on the 15th May, headlined: 'Hundreds shouted at me, roll over and die', it was reported that this was one of the comments hurled at Mike Robins, along with 'Bastard' and 'Nazi'. He complained that he was 'bayed at' and that he 'tried to speak, but was shouted down. It was utterly terrifying.' Mr Festing, determined to get in on the act and claim his two minutes of fame, added' 'Robins tried again to speak but was drowned out.' What the bumbling trio - presumably struck down by collective amnesia - failed to remember was that there had been cameras present and that the whole thing had been recorded. In the closest thing you'll ever get to a retraction by a national newspaper the Observer, having received various complaints from those present at the debate, subsequently watched film footage of the event and was forced to admit that 'we can see that the headline was inaccurate,' and that the 'recording plainly shows him (...) being heard in silence.'

Another of Mr Festing's unique brand of conspiratorial efforts - using Robins as the 'Fall Guy' - proved to be yet another one of his failures and a very public one at that. Surely there is only a certain number of PR disasters that Mr Festing can chalk up before he is given his marching orders? Or would his daddy, Dr Michael Festing, who holds a number of prominent positions within the vivisection industry, have something to say about that and his golden boy? Nepotism aside, we predict a short future and an undistinguished one for our Mr Festing!

Look forward to seeing you again very soon, Simon!


The Journal of History - Summer 2006 Copyright © 2006 by News Source, Inc.