“Each person has to make decisions and, like everyone, I’ve had my fair share of making poor judgements. Life is a journey and these things shape who we all are today, but the important lesson is to learn from them.” - Luke Steele, Head of Anti-Vivisection Coalition, United Kingdom
Luke Steele has a huge reputation for saving animals from suffering, but Luke humbly says, “I view myself as an unlikely activist.”
Like many of us, our connection with non-human animals began at an early age. “We had dogs and cats, but my favourites were always mice. It’s so fascinating to sit there and note their wonderful habits and instincts.”
Luke recalls, “My first exposure to vivisection was at the age of seven and I remember the occasion well.”
Awaiting a match in the school chess tournament, Luke explored the library where the competition was hosted. “In the biology section was a book on vivisection, which detailed the macabre practices of the animal laboratory. Instantly,” Luke states, “I knew the practice to which I had borne witness was wrong.”
Brought up in a vegetarian lifestyle household, Luke developed a deeper knowledge of non-human animals, erasing the ignorance which posses some to disregard or harm animals.
At the age of thirteen, with a firm understanding of society’s ignorance and exploitative treatment of animals, Luke become involved in a local anti-vivisection society.
Since then, Luke has participated in and led many successful anti-vivisection campaigns, becoming a leading force in the growth of the modern anti-vivisection movement in the United Kingdom.
Now, at age twenty-four, Luke is the Head of the Anti-Vivisection Coalition (AVC) in Britain, a division of Coalition Anti Vivisection (Belgium) and Anti Dierproeven Coalitie (Netherlands).
The anti-vivisection movement in the United Kingdom has a rich, more than century old, history. For decades anti-vivisection protectionists have closed individual establishments and employed every tactic including protests, boycotts, blockades, and raids.
These tactics, Luke believes, have worked, served a purpose, and placed anti-vivisection as a firm and visible issue on the British agenda.
The most recent anti-vivisection victory came in November 2013 when East Riding of Yorkshire Council rejected a B & K Universal (a division of Marshall BioResources Group in the United States) proposal to build a large beagle breeding facility for use in cruel animal research.
During Luke’s late teenage years of campaigning, he witnessed cruelty purveyed towards animals including many deliveries of frantic and helpless dogs destined for animal experimentation.
Faced with ardent traditionalists who believe animal experimentation is acceptable, Luke employed a no-holds-barred approach to his campaign techniques that gained national media attention and public support for the anti-vivisection cause.
Distinguishing between truth and sensationalism, Luke Steele is not an extremist. The sole reason British media has labelled him as controversial is his unwavering stance on the complete abolition of animal experimentation.
“After all,” Luke says, “we are asking the government to radically overhaul British science and eliminate all forms of animal experimentation.”
Luke’s imprisonment for trespass and harassment during anti-vivisection campaigns was a far cry from the heinous acts committed by his fellow inmates.
During his sentence, Luke engaged in intellectual pursuits. Commended for his scholarly abilities, he accepted an offer to tutor inmates who lacked his higher education. “I often pitied those who hadn’t had much of an education, so I taught them to read, write, draw and perform mathematics.”
“The whole experience changed my outlook,” Luke confides. “It made me realize a military sense of discipline is essential for campaigning, but also to use my education for the betterment of others. The anti-vivisection movement must learn from the lessons of history, whilst becoming contemporary, if abolition is to be realized.”
“We should never budge an inch of compromise on our stance on vivisection. The animals need abolition and nothing short,” Luke states. “However, tactics have to change.”
Exposing the inner workings of the cruel animal experimentation industry and strengthening public support for the abolition of the animal experimentation industry is the mission of the Anti-Vivisection Coalition.
“Across the European Union there is a strong continental force pushing for change. In 2014, we get a platform in the European Parliament to represent the case to stop animal experiments.”
As the Anti-Vivisection Coalition in Britain continues to grow, Luke is positive that sordid animal experimentation practices conducted inside the nation’s laboratories will end. Luke states firmly, “The Anti-Vivisection Coalition is the future of anti-vivisectionism in Britain.”
“We’re professional, yet will never compromise. We gain influence from history, yet are contemporary. Through opening the doors and exposing vivisection laboratories, we will gain abolition.”
Click here to join the Anti-Vivisection Coalition national protest and torchlight vigil at the National Institute for Biological Standards & Control (NIBSC) in Hertfordshire on On Saturday, December 14, 2013.
Each torch flame represents the hope of freedom for every laboratory animal. Every year, the National Institute for Biological Standards & Control (NIBSC), a government laboratory, uses public funds to finance the importation, breeding, and use of primates in experimentation.