On the afternoon of April 1 2006, in Oxford, 40 participants, representing the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Spiritualist faiths, met at St. Michael’s Church (Saxon and the oldest building in the city) on Cornmarket Street in Oxford. Rain threatened, but as it turned out, the sun shone most of the afternoon on the Buddhists in their red robes and the rest of us, wearing red scarves and sashes.
We left for the site of the new laboratory on South Park Road, in single file and silence, carrying 6 tiny coffins decorated with a flower each. The local BBC reporter filmed the start and interviewed Susthama, the Buddhist nun from the Amida Trust in Leicestershire, who had organised the event. The laboratory, in process of construction, which will be a significant development in the enhancement of the vivisection industry for the university and city of Oxford, is under close wraps and there were no workmen there on a Saturday.
A representative of each faith gave readings and prayers. We had attracted attention in the city centre, which was full of the usual visitors, and quite a few asked for our leaflets, though we processed in silence and did not enter into conversation with them. But very few people passed our service and subsequent laying of the coffins outside the gate of the lab.
For the Christians, I read an address for Pastor James Thompson, retired Anglican priest and the Animals’ Padre, who wished, but was unable, to be present. He mentioned our sowing to the wind and reaping the whirlwind and this image was also picked up by the Sikh participant. The Spiritualist speaker read a visualisation in which we envisaged that lab surrounded by light and, in the end, never opening. I read the John Woolman passage from Quaker Faith & Practice, quoted below. Back at the Quaker Meeting House, in St. Giles Street, we socialised and enjoyed refreshments provided by the Sikh community.
I have not yet had feedback from other participants, but felt that, at the very least, we made a dignified and important contribution to the considerable opposition to this laboratory. It is time the general public was made aware that some followers of several faiths are deeply disturbed about our appalling exploitation of our fellow species, our brothers and sisters in creation, and about the widespread assumption that these numerous creatures, in all their beautiful diversity, are here merely for our use.
I was early convinced in my mind that true religion consisted in an inward life, wherein the heart doth love and reverence God the Creator and learns to exercise true justice and goodness, not only towardall men, but also toward the brute creation: that as the mind was moved on an inward principle to love God as an invisible, incomprehensible being, on the same principle it was moved to love him in all his manifestations in the visible world; that as by his breath the flame of life was kindled in all animal and sensitive creatures, to say we love God and at the same time exercise cruelty toward the least creature was a contradiction in itself.