How Will Young is leading the charge: A petition to end animal testing

Posted 20th December 2023

‘I believe in the passion of the British public’

Celebrated singer Will Young is also an Olivier Award nominated actor, and a passionate advocate for animal rights, and his latest ‘role’ is one of his most important. It’s not enough for him to simply put his name to a campaign – the committed activist has launched a petition demanding an end to any form of testing on animals in the UK, most specifically our four legged friends.

He spoke to Pulse’s Sammy Jones about his very special cause…

“I think dogs, and our pets in general are our confidantes,” Will starts, “They provide unadulterated love. They are just great for so many reasons; they get us out of the house, and they bring a lot of joy into my life…”

Will speaks from experience – he currently has three dogs at home, and is pooch pa to border terrier Esme, and pitbull mixes Iris and Domino, who Will rescued from a kill shelter in Los Angeles during the pandemic.

“They were about an hour away from being put down…”
As a ‘nation of dog lovers’ we are ruled by our paw-fect companions, and yet, in 2022, more than 4000 dogs were experimented on in Great Britain, enduring psychological trauma and pain and suffering.

“It used to be, ‘Well, we’re allowed a certain amount of cruelty if it’s getting results, but it’s just not getting results,” Will said, “It is just a system that has been forgotten about and it takes someone like myself to point it out and go, ‘Hang on, this system is archaic.’
“Understandably it has been forgotten about because there is a lot of stuff to concentrate on in running this country, but I think it is time to update.”

An All-Party Parliamentary Group has acknowledged that 92% of drugs fail in human trials despite being tested on animals, which should be all the evidence needed to call time on this unnecessary practice.

“I spend a lot of time talking about the science because you can’t debate it – the non-animal testing methods are so much better, even Pfizer and AstraZeneca stood up in a conference in Toronto three months ago and said ‘we don’t even want to be testing on dogs’.

“They said, ‘We don’t want to, we have to and we don’t get any results from it’ – that’s two big pharmaceutical companies,” Will emphasises.
Will has created what he calls a ‘coalition’ of likeminded people who are working for positive change.

“I have been speaking to very smart people,” he tells me, listing people including Chris Packham and Deborah Meaden.
“I talk to Animal Aid, I talk to top scientists who do non-animal testing methods, I talk to the brand Lush, this is across the board.
“These aren’t people who are disruptors, these are people who are very bright and want the best for animals, and actually want the best for humanity.”

Will with his dog Domino

He cites a law change in Europe as a prime example of change for good – testing for cosmetics is now a thing of the past there.
“It’s a good example of a roadmap of law change making companies change their policies and now they are all done on non-animal methods; no one has died, the industry hasn’t crashed, so there is a roadmap for how you can ban testing on dogs.”

So why are we not moving with the times? Why is it still acceptable to inflict such horror on these poor animals?
“I think it’s undeniable that we’ve had a government where a lot of them have got drunk on the attention and taken their focus away from the citizens of this country and more into navel gazing at themselves, so you are never going to get results for humanity or indeed animals.
“I think it’s interesting that someone like Zac Goldsmith left the party, and one of the primary reasons was because of the Tories lack of movement on animal rights as well as the environment. I think that’s quite telling.

“But I think it’s looking positive that there are companies like AstraZeneca who are saying ‘We have to legally do this,’ they don’t want to be torturing these poor beagles.”

Knowing what the dogs are going through out of the sight of public view would weigh heavily on some people. Will concentrates on the positives.

“That’s probably because of the type of person I am,” he thinks, “I like to see the positive and the momentum, I also think it’s quite a privilege to be able to be in a position to give animals or humans voices that don’t necessarily have a voice, or feel like they have a voice.
“I actually find it very energising. I enjoy how politics works,” Will admits, indeed he studied politics before finding fame, “I enjoy the bustle of it, it’s a little bit of a card game, but I like that.

“I think that’s fun – I like seeing positive change.”
When Will discovered MBR acres in Cambridgeshire, he handcuffed himself to the gates of the puppy breeding facility, supporting many other activists in the drive to have the unit shut down. His involvement raised the profile of the campaign, and led to him spearheading this petition.

Instead of trying to shock people into action by using uncomfortable lab images, Will prefers to use the power of the word for change: “From a campaigning point of view often imagery turns people off, so I try to focus on the amazing science that there is now which is way more efficient, obviously less cruel and also a massively burgeoning industry – growing at 700% a year. It is an industry that the UK could be really getting involved with more, so I am really hoping that will happen.

“The imagery I’ve seen is from a legal puppy breeding facility, and I know the conditions that they’re in – not just the awful conditions, which no-one seemed to want to do anything about, but also the dogs being bled out and that is pretty awful to see. It is quite telling that there aren’t many images you can find anywhere of dogs being tested on, because scientists know that’s not popular…”

Let’s look at a best-case scenario – how soon could some of these tests be relegated to the past?
“Probably two years once a government gets into power” he thinks, “and if I’m honest the best case scenario is that it’s a Labour Government who have a much better record on animal rights.

“And we need a good home secretary, not a monster, or unhinged pantomime baddie that we have at the moment,” he says, talking of Suella Braverman who is still Home Secretary when we talk, although, as it would transpire, not for too much longer after our chat. They say ‘a week is a long time in politics’ for a reason.

It should be a no brainer for people to click and sign this petition, shouldn’t it?
“Well, that’s what I think, and this isn’t a shaming thing, I just think if you are a dog owner or a pet owner, it’s a given,” Will says, “One has to ask why it doesn’t happen; people have busy lives, people have only a certain amount of bandwidth for things, but I think this is a really positive thing. I believe in the passion and the care of the British public.”

Search for Ban the use of dogs for testing an research purposes in the UK petition, click to