Friday focus - Brave lad's protest puts yobs aside

PUBLISHED: 12:10 03 March 2006 | UPDATED: 21:44 28 May 2010

I have always accepted even supported the right to protest in this country. But it is sad that the public perception of protest is that it is a vehicle of the left, with marches and rallies opposing activities such as hunting, vivisection and arm sale

I have always accepted - even supported - the right to protest in this country.But it is sad that the public perception of protest is that it is a vehicle of the left, with marches and rallies opposing activities such as hunting, vivisection and arm sales being the staple diet of our newspapers and television bulletins.Until Saturday, that is.For on that day 16-year-old Laurie Pycroft hit back . . . and hit the headlines.He has formed Pro-Test, a pro-vivisection movement, which staged it first demonstration on Saturday, when he was joined by university students and dons, plus supporters from all over Europe, to support a research laboratory at Oxford University.The lab has been under the cosh from animal rights protestors, trying to halt its construction.A major problem with so many of these protest demonstrations is that they regularly attract battalions of empty-headed yobs whose lust for action (which normally means a fight or some "justifiable" vandalism), brings an otherwise laudable event into disrepute.Mr Pycroft is well aware of this. He has received death threats and his home now has a panic button linked directly to the local police station.But he is undeterred, and his position is quite clear: "The suffering of a few animals can vastly improve the quality of life for millions of people."The rights or wrongs of his stance are not the issue here. Views on this will vary, depending on whether you are a genuine animal lover, a hooligan searching for a cause or a person looking on helplessly while a loved one dies of cancer.But Mr Pycroft is clearly a brave lad with powerful convictions. And he has achieved his first aim - a lot of publicity.Despite this nationally-heralded fightback by Mr Pycroft and his colleagues, who obviously believe they are striking a blow for the silent majority, a very obvious truth should be remembered - that the protesters, the anti-brigade, are not always wrong and that the establishment is not always right.Is it too much to hope that the actions of this teenager, who hopes to become a doctor, can spawn a new order within which the public does not feel obliged to believe the propaganda of those who snarl the loudest and threaten (and in many cases carry out) acts of violence?

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