Andrew Blake, 39, Dead

Andrew Blake, the founder of Seriously Ill for Medical Research and a tireless advocate for animal research, died this month at the age of 39.

As a teenager Blake was diagnosed with Friedrich’s ataxia — a genetic disease that affects about 1 out of every 50,000 Europeans and kills most of its sufferers in early adulthood. By the time he was 17, Blake was in a wheelchair.

In 1990, Blake was appalled after animal rights terrorists planted bombs in an attempt to kill medical researcher Max Headly and veterinarian Margaret Baskerville. After learning there was no organization dedicated to defending medical research with animals, Blake started Seriously Ill for Medical Research.

The Independent (London) newspaper talked about the nasty hate mail Blake received from compassionate animal rights activists,

He would shock journalists by showing them the hate mail he received. “I hope you die in agony, you cripple” was a typical message. He was unfazed by it. Activists also pasted libelous posters about Blake in the village where he lived.

Seriously Ill for Medical Research will continue on. As Vicky Cowell, chair of SIMR, wrote last week,

The greatest tribute SIMR, and its vast array of Members and Friends, can pay Andrew is to continue his legacy. You can be assured that everyone involved in the day-to-day running of the organization will be doing their utmost to ensure this happens. Over the years the organization, that was once Andrew’s dream, has gone from strength to strength. Eleven years on, SIMR is a force to be reckoned with. It will continue to grow and to gain momentum. Some dreams do come true!


Obituary: Andrew Blake; Tireless Campaigner for Medical Research. Caroline Richmond, The Independent (London), May 29, 2002.

ANDREW BLAKE – 22.3.63 – 24.5.02. Vicky Cowell, Seriously Ill for Medical Research, May 25, 2002.

'My Daughter Deserves the Chance to Live'

In a recent newsletter, Americans for Medical Progress pointed out a fascinating exchange of letters between an animal rights activist and the mother of a cystic fibrosis patient in the pages of New Scientist.

On March 23, 2002, Chris Nay of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection wrote a letter attacking a recent pro-animal research campaign by the Research Defence Society. That campaign featured 16-year-old Laura Cowell who suffers from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease.

Nay’s attack is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. According to Nay,

. . . the RDS is not the first group to realise the potential of such a “campaign mascot” as an effective though predictable choice in their propaganda war. Indeed, such patronizing campaigns where patients are often portrayed as helpless victims eternally indebted to the tireless philanthropy of the pharmaceuticals industry are nothing new.

Given the propensity for the animal rights movement in general and BUAV in particular to substitute pictures of cute animals to hide their severely deficient critique of medical research, this is absurd.

Moreover the patronizing is done here by Nay. It would of course be better for his group if people whose life literally depends on animal research would just roll over and die without raising any sort of objection. Far from being a “helpless victim,” Cowell came across as a fighter who, unfortunately, has to contend not only with her deadly disease but with an animal rights movement that puts the lives of rats and mice on an equal moral plane with hers.

In fact, Nay is not afraid to put the mice and rats in a morally superior position to Cowell. After saying that he has “to questions the validity of” the claim that Cowell’s life has been extended due to animal research (of course he questions this, but never provides any evidence that it is an inaccurate claim), Nay launches into the heart of the animal rights argument,

The RDS claim that people benefit from vivisection. The BUAV believes people will benefit if vivisection is banned. Either way, it is indisputable that throughout history the oppressor has often benefited from the suffering and exploitation of the oppressed, sometimes substantially. The question the RDS seems unwilling or unable to address is whether it is ever morally acceptable for the strong to ameliorate their suffering by transferring it to the weak.

When Cowell seeks to prolong her life by supporting animal research, she is no different from 17th and 18th century colonialists and slave traders who oppressed others simply to benefit their own position.

Cowell, the cystic fibrosis sufferer, is the oppressor. The animals that have provided key insights into cystic fibrosis, the oppressed.

In a response to Nay, Laura Cowell’s mother Vicky, who chairs Seriously Ill for Medical Research, responded to Nay’s points, writing,

If the life of a child is not more valuable than that of a mouse then there is something very wrong with our society. It is because of ongoing research using transgenic mice with cystic fibrosis that the quality of life for thousands of people like Laura is improving. Scientists will one day find a cure for her condition. Surely she deserves the chance to live — and to live a full and productive life?

You bet she does.


Emotive campaign. Chris Nay, New Scientist, March 23, 2002.

My daughter deserves the chance to live. Vicky Cowell, New Scientist.

Stephen Hawking condemns animal rights movement

British physicist Stephen Hawking
recently denounced animal rights extremists bent on banning the use of
animals in medical experimentation. Hawking author of the best selling
A Brief History of Time, attacked the animal rights movement in
comments before a meeting of the British Association of Science.

Andrew Blake, director of the UK-based
group Seriously Ill for Medical Research, also appeared before the gathering
of scientists to denounce animal rights extremists, saying, “Medical
progress is being threatened by the extreme tactics of those who are seeking
to abolish animal research.”

Both men’s comments were occasioned
by the recent controversy over protests by UK activists against an animal
breeding farm in Oxfordshire. The establishment, |Hill Grove| farm, breeds
cats specifically to be used for animal experiments. The cats are certified
to be free of common feline viruses that might disrupt or distort medical
research. British Association of Science president Colin Blakemore, for
example, studies the cats to find clues to the development of the cerebral
cortex. Blakemore is currently developing a new imaging system for analyzing
the brain that he hopes will later be modified for use in human beings,
possibly greatly enhancing our understanding of how the brain works.

For his efforts, animal rights
activists have rewarded Blakemore with two letter bombs, packages containing
razor blades, and assorted threats over the last 11 years. Activists have
engaged in an unrelenting campaign of harassment against Hill Grove involving
everything from car bombs to rock throwing that has destroyed 80 percent
of the glass panes in the house where |Hill Grove|’s proprietors live.


UK’s Hawking condemns animal rights extremists. Patricia Reaney, Reuters,
Sept. 7, 1998.

Hawking defends tests on animals. Daily Telegraph,
Sept. 13, 1998.