No student of mine

May 14, 2004

In his otherwise very fair review (April 30) of my debate with Gill Langley on animal experimentation, Steve Farrar repeats the myth that Langley was a student of mine at Cambridge University, "who went on to pen an anti-vivisectionist pamphlet that first drew attention to her former teacher's work".

I'm surprised that Langley herself hasn't written to correct the false assertion that she was my student. To my knowledge, I never met Langley at Cambridge. She was a research student in a different faculty.

The false assertion first appeared in the Sunday Mirror in May 1987, in a notorious "exclusive" article based partly on material that Langley supplied. I presume that it was included to add authenticity and credibility to the rest of the nonsense in that article. This led to a 15-year campaign of threats, demonstrations, property damage and attempted murder against me and my family.

After the article was strongly condemned by the old Press Council as containing "factual errors, misrepresentations and misleading photographs", the Sunday Mirror apologised.

Mark Gold, director of Animal Aid, for which Langley worked, told me that he regretted the consequences of the campaign against me and that Animal Aid had stopped targeting individual scientists. Langley has never apologised. Nevertheless, I repeat here an invitation that I, and many others, have made to her - to join the Boyd Group (a forum for debate on the use of animals in research) so that she can contribute to proper, rational dialogue on this important subject.

Colin Blakemore
Chief executive
Medical Research Council

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