Chris Patten, former EU Commissioner and new chancellor of Oxford University, used his first speech as Oxford chancellor to blast animal rights “thugs” in the UK who are threatening medical research.
In his speech, Patten said,
It would, of course, be devastating news for many who suffer from disease if this research was to be halted in its tracks. But there is more at risk than the future of biomedical research in one university, or even in the whole country.
To use violence against research at a university — against academic staff and all those in any way associated with what they do — is a serious blow against the basic liberties of a plural society. If we surrender over animal research, what comes next?
Will there be attempts to intimidate us not to employ those who belong to a particular country or faith or ethnic group? Will research into some parts of our history be censored as it has been and still is in some countries?
Will other sorts of scientific inquiry be choked off because of the objections of this or that group which is prepared to threaten or use violence? Pushing back the boundaries of knowledge is one of the hallmarks of a free and civilized society.
These are all issues that are on the frontier between an Enlightenment world of liberty and reason, and darkness.
Universities, when able to pursue knowledge simply out of curiosity, are a bastion of a free society, as newspapers are. If you start to limit through the use of violent means what universities do, you are undermining the values of freedom.
Wow — the role of Chancellor in the Oxford system is largely a symbolic one, but it is still good to see someone associated with the university so eloquently stating what is at stake in the fight against animal rights extremism.
New Chancellor Patten Attacks Animal Rights Extremists. Press Association, November 19, 2004.
Liberty threatened by animal rights thugs, says Patten. Mark Henderson, The Times (London), November 19, 2004.
Animal rights extremists slammed. BBC, November 19, 2004.