AIA Chair Proposes Motion Encouraging Humane Medical Research

Feargus O'ConnorAIA Chair, Rev Feargus O’Connor, proposes a motion  encouraging humane medical research at the 2015 Unitarian General Assembly Annual Meeting.  The motion, which has been signed by 37 Unitarian ministers reads:

That this General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, recognising the universal kinship of all sentient beings affirmed by the world’s  great religions, philosophers and sages, encourages fellow Unitarians and all people of goodwill to support the Universal Kinship Fund of the Dr Hadwen Trust and other humane research charities in order to advance non-animal medical research and in so doing help save human and animal lives.’

Feargus writes:

This motion is fully in the spirit of the 2013 General Assembly resolution urging all people of goodwill to ‘promote a greater awareness and understanding of the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part and, recognising the dignity and worth of all living creatures, cultivate an ethic of compassion and mercy to the billions of sentient beings who share this planet with us and to act in ways that promote our common welfare’. This the present motion seeks to do by encouraging all who recognise that universal kinship affirmed by the great religions and enlightened and progressive thinkers to support the Dr Hadwen Trust and other humane research charities in order to ‘advance non-animal medical research and in so doing help save human and animal lives’.

This very sense of universal kinship is perceived not only in Darwin’s theory of evolution but is emphatically proclaimed in the teachings of the world’s great religions. ‘Any religion or philosophy which is not based on respect for life’, Albert Schweitzer wrote, ‘is not a true religion or philosophy.’ These words echo the wisdom not only of Eastern religious thinkers such as Jains, Hindus and Buddhists and revered prophets of non-violence like Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy, but enlightened prophets and sages of many diverse spiritual traditions, East and West: an inner conviction that reverence for life and a sense of kinship with all living beings must indeed be at the heart of all authentic living religion.

Should we therefore not carefully heed these wise words of Albert Schweitzer on the well springs of true compassion and benevolence?

Until we extend the circle of our compassion to all living beings, we shall not ourselves find peace. It is our sympathy with all creatures that first makes us truly human…to preserve life, to promote life, to raise to its highest value life which is capable of development…[ but it is evil] to destroy life, to injure life, to repress life which is capable of development…. Compassion, in which all ethics must take root, can attain its full breadth and depth only if it embraces all living beings’.

 Only in this way shall we fittingly honour what the American Quaker, John Woolman, called that ‘Channel of Universal Love’, embracing, upholding and sustaining all that lives.

It is in this conviction and in this spirit that the Animal Interfaith Alliance, of which I am chair, is launching on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Dr Schweitzer’s death an Albert Schweitzer Universal Kinship Appeal for the Dr Hadwen Trust for the charity’s vital humane medical research into cancer and diabetes. If it is true, as William Blake declared, that ‘all that lives is holy’ what nobler act can there be than saving lives? We have an opportunity to do this not only through this GA motion encouraging and advancing the ideal of humane medical research but also in practical action to help save human and animal lives right now.

The scientific case for humane medical research

The human body is incredibly complex, consisting of approximately 37 trillion cells that are organised into at least 200 cell types. Our genome is comprised of thousands of genes and the human body contains millions of different proteins. These proteins along with other regulatory components form the basis of critical cellular processes, which not only ensure each cell performs its specific task but also enables it to communicate with other cells to form pathways and networks of pathways vital to human health. It is apparent that scientists still have much to learn about how the human body works and the diseases that affect it.

The best and most reliable ‘models’ for research into such diseases are of course human beings themselves. However, ethical considerations prevent society from using people for many scientific purposes. This creates the immense challenge of, for example, understanding a human disease or predicting whether or not a novel drug is safe and effective for people without the direct use of human beings (ethically approved clinical trials aside of course). Consequently, all non-human approaches have their limitations. In the case of the experimental use of animals, enormous ethical implications, in addition to the problems surrounding interspecies differences and proven lack of predictive power for many human diseases, are ever present.

The Dr Hadwen Trust

Over the past 40 years the Dr Hadwen Trust has funded over 170 different research activities and in the last 5 years alone has committed over £2.5 million to human relevant animal replacement research activities, not only to replace animal use but to also advance human health knowledge humanely. Despite a large and ever growing ‘toolbox’ of animal replacement technologies such as 3D cell culture, organotypic models, micro-dosing, computational modelling, advanced imaging techniques and the appropriate means of analysing novel data sets there is still much progress to be made. The Dr Hadwen Trust is fully committed to funding the most beneficial and compassionate research activities and disseminating research findings to the wider public. The charity engages with the UK Government through stakeholder groups and similar organisations and, through a pragmatic and pro-solution approach, helps the scientific/medical community to no longer rely on the use of animals. For more information please see the website:

Dr Brett Cochrane, Group Head of Science at the Dr Hadwen Trust – Latest UK statistics on the use of living animals in scientific experiments

In 2013, the last year for which full statistics are available, the number of animals used for scientific experiments was 4.02 million and the number of procedures conducted was 4.12 million. For the first time, the number of animal procedures for the breeding of genetically modified (GM) or harmful genetic mutation (HM) animals went above 50% of all procedures.

The statistics indicate that for every GM or HM animal that was used, in either fundamental biological research, applied studies, safety testing or other uses, three additional animals were used for breeding. Of all GM and HM animals 0.65 million were used for experiments whilst another 2.10 million were used for breeding. In 2013 the animals that were genetically modified or had harmful mutations were: mice (74.7%), rats (6.5%), domestic fowl (3.1%), fish (12.3%), sheep (1.1%), frogs (0.3%), pigs (0.1%) and dogs (0.01%).



AIA Welcomes The Oshwal Association of the UK as its latest member

Jain Temple Potters bar

The Animal Interfaith Alliance is delighted to welcome The Oshwal Association of the UK  (OAUK) as its latest member.  The OAUK is a registered charity and the largest Jain organisation in the United Kingdom, representing over 25,000 Jains More details are given in their website at

Oshwal logo

AIA Applauds the Labour Party Manifesto on ‘Protecting Animals’


In November 2014 the AIA wrote to all the major UK political parties asking that they put animals into politics and include the AIA’s 10 point plan for animals in their party manifestos.  The Labour party replied promptly and positively.  They have now launched their party manifesto on protecting animals which the AIA are delighted with.  The AIA will continue to work with Labour on animal welfare matters.  The full manifesto can be read here…

AIA Science Director, Dr Andre Menache, Testifies in Landmark Dutch Court Case

Andre At CourtIn December 2014 Dr Andre Menache presented evidence in a Dutch court of justice as an expert witness in defence of five animal rights persons who released six beagles destined for animal experiments.

Based on the information that the animal rights people had, these dogs were destined for toxicity tests categorised as ‘severe’. These are experiments where some animals are expected to die before the end of the study.

The six dogs were rescued from a private property on the night between 9 and 10 April 2013 and immediately transferred to loving homes. The five people involved turned themselves in to the police the following morning and confessed their actions but did not reveal the location of the rescued dogs.

The dog rescuers were found guilty of theft and will be sentenced on 22 December. It is likely that they will receive a community service order and be required to repay the value of the the stolen beagles (around one thousand euros per dog).

What was interesting at the trial was the fact that the judge was willing to hear a scientist speaking against animal experiments. Dr Menache’s role was to describe to the court the nature and suffering of these experiments and the fact that there are alternative ways of conducting this sort of research. Equally interesting was the fact that the public.

prosecutor, having heard statements about the feelings of dogs from the defence lawyer and some of the dog rescuers, at one point corrected herself. Instead of referring to dogs as ‘beasts’ (which is their legal definition), she corrected herself and used the term ‘animal’.

Perhaps it is about time for the law to raise the status of animals from beasts or mere property to that of sentient beings worthy of respect and the five RSPCA freedoms (with which we are familiar in the UK).

AIA Mourns the Passing of Pastor James Thompson, Animal Padre


James & Lamb

The Rev. James Thompson, known as the Animals’ Padre, has died. He was 84 and died peacefully in hospital on Friday, January 30th 2014. As he said of a mutual friend and campaigner, Hanna Moorcroft, he is now ‘promoted to glory’.

Pastor, chaplain, writer and very active campaigner for all animals, he initiated and attended many protests, vigils and services over the years, in north Wales against live exports, in Chester for the badger, and the turkeys sacrificed at Christmas, at Hillgrove, and in Cambridge against vivisection labs – just a few examples of his witness.

He spoke up strongly in support of campaigners against the bullfight in Spain and with Doreen, his wife and wonderful helpmeet, as he himself described her very recently, demonstrated outside the bullrings in SW France.

He conducted the service at the Animals’ War Memorial in London every year – in fact, he was instrumental in getting the tradition started, at the suggestion of his friend, Cynthia O’Neil. He held many animal blessings at the Baptist chapel in Holywell, Flintshire, where the family lived.

He was a lovely man, devoted and committed to helping animals all over the world, having great courage of his convictions, and always ready to support his friends in other faiths and denominations.

On his website he wrote of his visit to Germany in the 1990s:

‘Pastor Michael Blanke was soon to invite us a second time to Germany; but this time we would end up as guests to the Catholic Dean of Wiesbaden. Indeed, the venue was the beautiful Catholic Church of The Holy Family. The Church was packed to capacity by animal loving worshippers of all the major denominations. And before the actual worship began I had been invited by the Dean to participate in Holy Communion. “Just give me a blessing Father, I understand your dilemma and a blessing will abundantly suffice at this morning’s Mass!” I said. His reply was “You will offend me greatly if you do not partake of the Blessed Sacrament”.

Yes, it would be the first and only time that Doreen and I communicated in a Catholic Church. And then, as if this were not enough of a concession, the dear Priest later asked a lady Lutheran minister to preach and offer a prayer before I did similar on behalf of the Anglican branch of Christendom.

Indeed, as is usual, the animals were again on their best behaviour. It was incredible how well behaved they all were. And during their time of blessing, near the end of worship, a delightfully warm hearted and sensitive lady came forward. “May I speak to you?” she asked. “Of course!” I replied. Her words were something like this: “You understand, I’m brought up a Catholic and you a Protestant, and our churches have been kept apart from each other down the many years. Today the animals have brought us together as one and I am so very happy”.’

Let us hope he is now reunited with all the creatures he prayed for in this world. We have lost a wonderful friend for the animals. Let us hold him, Doreen and the family in the Light.

The photo, accredited to Doreen and used with thanks, shows James, a true pastor, blessing a lamb.

James’ last newsletter, accessible with other on the website, was written in Autumn 2014.


Marian Hussenbux. Quaker Concern for Animals




AIA Mourns the Passing of Norm Phelps

1604429_10152519624295895_1588248727618986921_nNorm Phelps: 16 May 1939 – 31 Dec 2014

Norm Phelps was a tireless advocate for animals, whose wisdom and personal gentleness will be missed by many. He was always a peacemaker, who did not seek personal aggrandizement, but maintained his focus on the well-being of the countless voiceless nonhumans who are brutalized on a massive scale throughout the world.

Among Norm’s contributions to the animal protectionism literature were The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible, in which Phelps argued that an honest and rigorous reading of the Bible favours animal rights just as much, if not more, than human rights, The Longest Struggle: Animal Rights from Pythagoras to Peta, an overview of the long, hard campaign to prevent animal mistreatment and The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights, which explores whether Buddhism demands vegetarianism and the promotion of animal rights.

To purchase these books from Amazon, click here.


The Longest Struggle - Norm Phelpsgreat_compassion_cover-130x191


AIA Announces Manifesto for Animals ahead of the UK General Election



The Animal Interfaith Alliance has written to the leaders of all the major political parties to persuade them to put animals into their manifestos for the 2015 General Elections.  The key issues we wish to see addressed are as follows:


  1. Support for the campaign to adopt the Universal Declaration for Animal welfare (UDAW) at the United Nations.


  1. Support for the setting up of a permanent Animal Protection Commission (APC) that investigates and reports to Parliament and a Cabinet Minister on its own initiative; and liaises with a Select Committee on Animal Protection.


  1. Support for mandatory CCTV in all slaughter houses, with access by the APC and other animal protection bodies.


  1. Ending all experiments on animals in the ‘severe’ category (about 3% of the total).


  1. Mandatory chipping, neutering and registering of all dogs. Control over over-production of pets.


  1. Mandatory labelling of animal products showing methods of production, rearing and slaughter; and countries of origin.


  1. Link the funding by the Research Councils to the development of humane alternatives to animal experiments, and for the avoidance of severe suffering.


  1. A science-led approach to Bovine TB and the development of vaccines.


  1. No wild animals in circuses.
  2. All snares to be banned by law.


Indian Vegetarian Society Holds 34th Annual Christmas Dinner

Nitin Mehta 2The Indian Vegetarian Society held its 34th annual vegetarian Christmas Lunch on Sunday 14th December. AIA Patron, Nitin Mehta MBE, the founder of the society said that the aim of organizing the lunch was the same as when it begun 34 years ago. It is to celebrate Christmas as a national festival and to promote friendship between communities living in Croydon. The Indian community is proud to be British. The Mayor of Croydon, Councillor Manju Shaul-Hammed, MP for Croydon north, Steve Reed, and leader of Croydon council, Tony Newman, who is a vegetarian, were amongst the guests. Around 130 people enjoyed a traditional Gujarati Vegan meal.

The Mayor praised the Indian community for playing a positive role in society. MP Steeve Reed said that the contribution of the Indian Hindu community was great in all walks of life. Members of Purley United Reformed Church, Croydon Ecology Centre, Croydon Vegetarians and Surrey Vegetarians and Vegans were present.

Guests enjoyed a lunch of parathas, udad dal, peas and cauliflower curry, biryani and bhajias followed by vegan cakes and tea. Nitin said that idea of a Christmas lunch was spreading as a similar event was being held at the same time at the Crawley Hindu Temple and the Jain Centre in Colindale. Kamlalbhai Rao from Gujarat Samachar was present too.

The delicious food was prepared by the ladies and popular chef Rajubhai Shah. Long term friendships are formed by sharing food together and our English friends are introduced to many varieties of Indian vegetarian food.