Animal Protection > Activist Interviews

TAKE NO PRISONERS an interview with the incorrigible British doctor, author, and vivisector's nightmare, Vernon Coleman, about vivisection and his new book Animal Rights, Human Wrongs

With all his heart and soul Vernon Coleman believes, and lives that belief, that animal experiments are morally, scientifically and ethically wrong, wrong, wrong.

"The only reason that vivisection has not yet been stopped is that the battle of words has been fought, not just against waves of commercially sustained prejudice but also against apparently endless seas of ignorance and indifference" he has written.

Now the indelible Mr Coleman has taken time out to speak on a diverse range of issues with us, from vivisection and Tony Blair's New Labour Government, to the role the media could play in fighting vivisection to his opinions on the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

Interviewed by Claudette Vaughan.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself Vernon.

A. I qualified as a doctor in 1970, 10 years worked as a GP in the UK's National Health Service. 20 years ago I gave up my job as a GP because I wanted to try and change the world and you can't do that working inside the system. Since then I've earned my living as a author.

Q. I once saw you debating a vivisector on TV and even the host of the show was pro-vivisection. He was getting so furious with you that the veins in his neck were popping out. I can't believe how well you kept your cool. Got any suggestions for us?

A. Sometimes calm is best on TV and radio. Sometimes passion works. If the opposition gets excited it is sometimes better to stay calm. This has two effects. First, it makes the opposition get crosser. They often look nastier and sillier and frequently end up becoming aggressive. This usually wins you audience sympathy. And staying calm means you can think better. I have enormous difficulty staying calm when debating animal issues. Sadly, I don't get invited to debate animal issues anymore.

Q. Why is that?

A. Vivisectors and vivisection supporters say they won't go into a studio with me. So perhaps my approach has proved too effective!

Q. In your latest book Animal Rights, Human Wrongs you speak at length on how the Blair Government has sold the animals down the river. Would you reiterate your thoughts on the subject?

A. Before the last election when Blair and New Labour wanted all the votes they could gather they promised all sorts of things. As a National newspaper columnist in the UK (with around 5 million weekly readers), I wrote to all three parties asking them what they would do for animals if they won. I offered to support (and encouraged my readers to support) the party which offered most to animals. The Labour Party agreed that I might hold the balance of power in the election and so in a letter to me New Labour made a number of promises. (I had not believed the promises they had made and had, in the end, encouraged my readers to abstain and vote for other parties in order to weaken the inevitable Labour Party majority.)

After the election, when the Labour party had forgotten and denied these promises, I sent copies of the letters to every British MP, every newspaper, every TV station, every radio station and every animal rights group. I did this four or five times. But the promises remained unfulfilled.

Q. What of the police? Is it true that animal activists in England now come under the province of "terrorists"?

A. I believe that new legislation will mean that animal rights supporters will be officially regarded as terrorists. But unofficially this has been the case for some time. The reason for this is simple: those who support animals are a serious economic threat. Once again, my book explains this in detail.

Q. What is your way to expose vivisectors and vivisection?

A. If all the people who claim to love animals worked together and used the media probably vivisection would end. If would indeed, have already ended. Sadly, most people in the animal rights movement have no idea how the media works or how to deal with it.

Q. If that's the case, do you see coalitions as the way to go?

A. Pro-animal campaigners will not work together. I tried to form a UK coalition assuring everyone involved that having set up the initial meeting I would back out completely. Because I am aware of the number of outrageous egos in the animal rights world I made it clear that I did not have any ambition to "lead" any such group. But the attempt to pull animal rights groups together failed miserably. Why? Could it be vanity? Could it be that individual animal rights groups were frightened that their money-raising would be less successful? Animal Rights groups still fight one another far more ferociously than they fight animal abusers. This is the real reason why animal rights abuse continues and will continue.

Some individuals who claim to love animals seem to delight in making up and spreading absurd, vicious and damaging lies about others who have the same aims. I suspect ego and vanity are behind all of this destructive nonsense.

These days I work outside all animal rights groups. My campaigning is paid for entirely by my novels and other writing.

Q. What are your campaigns at present?

A. Constantly encouraging my readers to protest about specific instances of abuse. But I am also looking for ways to end animal abuse in general. For example, I get into serious trouble for telling my readers that meat causes cancer. That is, of course, true but serious attempts have been made to stop me from saying it. Even people who don't care about animals eat less meat when they know this. My own web-site contains a good deal of animal information for free downloading. I'm setting up a new web-site: 

Q. There are so many of us in the AR (animal rights) Movement and so few achievements are ours in anti-vivisection. If AR people focussed on the fundamentals of vivisection what in your opinion would these fundamentals be?

A. We are no further forward than a hundred years ago. Vivisection would have stopped long ago if those who cared put aside their egos, used the media properly and worked together. There is scientific evidence on my web-site which proves that animal experiments are worthless. But the way things are going vivisection will never end. I confess I find this depressing.

Q. Is the use of animals in laboratories slowing down at all.

A. No. The global rate of animal abuse is not slowing down. If anything it's going up.

Q. Constantly the argument gets dredged up 'My baby or my dog?", and of course it will always be the child first. What do you say to that?

A. I simply point out that animal experiments don't help human beings. Indeed, all the evidence shows conclusively that a baby is at extra risk because of animal experiments. I have huge amounts of evidence for this in my books and on my website.

Q. Do you support the ALF on the grounds that its presence has guaranteed the more moderate AR and animal welfare groups a freedom of expression that they might not have otherwise enjoyed?

A. I don't approve of any sort of violence. The activities of those who advocate violence against property or individuals have drawn attention to the issue of animal abuse. But those activities have to a large extent played into the hands of the animal abusers and have, in the long run, weakened our position in the media battle.

It is true that one or two animals who have been released have been helped. I will doubtless make more enemies by saying this but generally speaking these activities have damaged the interests of animals and strengthened the position of the animal abusers. We will only win the battle against vivisection, meat-eating and so on if we use the media properly. Putting on a ski mask and hurling a brick through a window isn't ever going to look good and it isn't ever going to help animals.

I understand the sense of frustration which leads people to do this. I do not condone it, nor do I wish to criticise anyone. But I believe, there are better, more effective ways to fight for animals.

Note: Vernon Coleman's book Animal Rights, Human Wrongs a blueprint for a better society is available and published by Blue Books, Publishing House, Trinity Place, Barnstaple, Devon EX 32 9HJ.

Vernon Coleman's websites: