New Zealand Vivisector's Conference Under Siege
campaigners from around Aotearoa/New Zealand gathered in the capital,
Wellington, to protest a two-day vivisectors' conference in November. The
conference was organized by ANZCCART (The Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care
of Animals in Research and Teaching), which is an animal research industry front
group set up to promote and defend the use of animals in experiments. 170
vivisectors attended this year's ANZCCART conference at the convention center in
the Te Papa National Museum.
The day before the conference was due to open, a group of activists charged into the Royal Society building where ANZCCART is based. There was a brief but noisy occupation of the building. The activists left before police arrived, taking a box of ANZCCART documents with them.
On the morning of November 18th, more then forty protesters gathered to welcome the vivisectors as the conference opened. A huge amount of noise continued for an hour and a half, and was audible clearly inside the conference.
Later that day, a group of activists made a surprise visit to the Wellington School of Medicine where thousands of animals are tortured in cancer research experiments. Activists armed with drums and other noise-making devices blockaded the foyer of the building and occupied it. The police forced them out 25 minutes later. The protest continued outside the building. While the police were dealing with that protest, another smaller group armed with cameras attempted to make a surprise inspection of the lab animal-breeding unit at Victoria University across town. Unfortunately they were spotted by security guards before they could gain entry and had to make a quick getaway.
That night, the vivisectors hid behind tight security at their conference dinner in the Skyline restaurant on a hill above the city. Some activists used an unknown device to create very loud explosion noises. The dinner was disrupted by a bomb threat phone call, followed by two loud bangs. After midnight several loud bangs were set off around the house of Mike Berridge, a well-known local vivisector who hopefully had no sleep that night.
On Friday at noon there was another big noisy protest outside Te Papa Museum. Just before activists arrived, some naughty person set off the fire alarms and the building was evacuated. Several fire engines arrived and about 500 people (including the vivisectors) poured onto the forecourt of the museum where the protest was about to begin. Unfortunately the vivisectors had been told to remove their conference badges so we couldn't identify them. Some protesters mingled with the crowd handing out leaflets, while the rest of us kept up the drumming and chanting. Later on, when the police had re-admitted people into the museum, a group of protesters split off from the main group and marched around to the back of the museum, closer to where the vivisectors were having their lunch. Detectives from the national Threat Assessment Unit were seen across the road from the protest observing everyone present. The protest ended with only a few minor confrontations. A few hours later there was a final protest as the vivisectors left the building. A dozen protesters were surrounded and heavily outnumbered by police at this final protest so were unable to do anything but shout at the vivisectors as they left.
The Animal Liberation Front was also active during the week. Several Wellington vivisectors were visited at their homes in the middle of the night just before the conference was about to begin. Two vivisectors from the Malaghan Institute, who live together, had their house sloganized and the front window smashed. John Miller, vivisector and head of the Victoria University animal ethics committee (which oversees and approves experiments at the university) had his house covered in ALF slogans, a brick through the front window and his car covered in paint stripper. And the Royal Society building (where ANZCCART is based) was covered in anti-vivisection slogans. The morning after the conference, a huge "vivisection is scientific fraud" slogan had appeared on the walls of the Museum.
Reports from within the conference said the vivisectors felt under siege for the whole two days. The atmosphere inside the building was one of paranoia as dozens of police and security guards patrolled the conference center. Security guards prevented the vivisectors from standing too close to the windows in case protesters threw rocks at them! Word had spread that Wellington vivisectors were having their homes trashed and every vivisection lab in Wellington had increased security for the week.
The protests were the first time in two years that activists from the length of the country gathered in one place and the grassroots animal liberation movement in Aotearoa is hopefully stronger following the protests against the conference. A relatively small group of activists from around the country managed to cause chaos and stress for the vivisection community without suffering any arrests themselves. They also started on plans for more coordination of local anti-vivisection campaigns around the country. Next year in May, factory farmers from around the world will be in Auckland for the World Pork Expo. We have started preparing for another national gathering of animal activists to make sure the Expo is another disaster for the animal abusers.