Harrogate thalidomide campaigner defends animal testing firm Labcorp
Last updated Oct 18, 2021
Guy Tweedy

A Harrogate thalidomide campaigner has defended local firm Labcorp Drug Development in the row over animal testing.

Guy Tweedy said if thalidomide had been tested on animals in the 1950s, thousands of people such as himself might have been spared birth defects caused by the drug.

Mr Tweedy, who is one of 447 beneficiaries of the Thalidomide Trust, as well as a trustee of Harrogate-based charity Disability Action Yorkshire, said thalidomide was barely tested before it went on sale.

He added:

“If there had been better testing on animals before thalidomide came out in the UK between 1958 and 1962, it might have shown they could have been born with deformities, which would have prevented the same thing happening in humans.”

Harrogate and Knaresborough Conservative MP Andrew Jones is lobbying the government to help the company, previously called Covance, to expand. About a third of the American firm Labcorp’s 4,000 UK staff are based in Harrogate.

The site on Otley Road is frequently targeted by animal protestors. Harrogate Borough Council heard this month that live animals, including Beagle puppies, non-human primates. rabbits, mice and mini-pigs are experimented on in Harrogate.

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Cllr Victoria Oldham, the Conservative representative for Washburn, recently called for a moratorium on animal testing in the Harrogate district.

Her motion was rejected but councillors did agree to visit the site.

Mr Tweedy said he was an animal lover with several pets, including a dog and rabbits, but he nevertheless understood the necessity of testing for non-cosmetic purposes.

“At the end of the day they are doing tests for scientific purposes. If they had done the same for thalidomide I wouldn’t still be campaigning 60 years later.”

Primarily marketed under the brand name Distaval, thalidomide was sold to pregnant mothers in the UK for less than four years before it was withdrawn.

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