Bourne's exposes his identity

MANY readers will have been surprised at the “confession” in the EADT by prominent Colchester Labour councillor Richard Bourne, who is also Chairman of Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust, that he had taken part in animal rights demonstrations outside people's homes and also “confronted” the suppliers of businesses which engage in experimentation “abuse.

MANY readers will have been surprised at the “confession” in the EADT by prominent Colchester Labour councillor Richard Bourne, who is also Chairman of Essex Rivers Healthcare NHS Trust, that he had taken part in animal rights demonstrations outside people's homes and also “confronted” the suppliers of businesses which engage in experimentation “abuse.”

Direct action is not normally rewarded with Quango chairmanships, and his candour could well harm his reappointment, even though his protests happened some time ago.

Mr Bourne's decision to go public is a result of the Prime Minister's condemnation of animal rights extremists who dug up a grandmother's body and hid it for several months, coupled with his insistence that experiments have to continue and researchers must be protected from fringe activists.

Let me say straight away that I have no truck with animal testing of cosmetics. Dripping soap into the eyes of a suffering dog just to ensure the product does not damage human beings is completely beyond what a civilised society should be practicing.


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However, when it comes to the testing of potential life saving pharmaceuticals on animals, then reluctantly I have to concede that for the good of mankind, such experiments are necessary.

Tony Blair last week promised to do “everything possible” to thwart extremists who have been intimidating employees of companies which carry out testing. “These extremists, wherever they work and however they try to intimidate people, will be met with the full force of the law and everything Government can do to protect decent people doing a decent job for the future of this country,” said the Prime Minister, who promised to sign a petition supporting animal testing and consult on plans to keep shareholders' names secret.

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Richard Bourne, one of the few public faces of the Labour Party left in Colchester, is distressed his own Prime Minister has turned on the protestors, “as if protestors are the problem,” describing it as a “typical diversionary tactic when the moral arguments have been lost.”

He asserts Labour's pre-1997 election manifestos had given false hope to people who wanted an end to experimentation but once in power, Labour had fallen prey to the vested interests of big business. In other words, it's gone native.

And while backing democratic politics enlivened by direct action, he wishes “good luck” to those who turn away from mainstream political parties and actively support campaigns such as animal rights and environmental issues.

Many years ago, youthful impetuosity saw me standing outside a branch of Sainsbury's urging a boycott of imported grapes from Chile to show my anger at the overthrow of President Allende by General Pinochet. And as an opponent of field sports, I took part in a highly amateur attempt to disrupt the Meon Valley Hunt. That was direct action before the term had ever been coined! Thirty years on, I've mellowed somewhat.

In a democracy, we all have the right to express our views either through the media, the ballot box, or on the streets in properly organised demonstrations. But if direct action today means standing and shouting outside the homes of workers, perhaps terrifying young children sheltering inside, and giving cause for concern over property damage, then I side with the Prime Minister.

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