Interview cover photo - Animal-Free Science Advocacy

Interview: Elizabeth Ahlston

The Australian Association for Humane Research Inc was founded in October 1979 by Ms. Elizabeth Ahlston. Read this interview to learn about her advocacy journey and the history of humane research. It was registered under the Charitable Collections Act (NSW) on 13th December 1979 and incorporated on 6th January 1992. HRA has interviewed our Founder to learn what inspired Elizabeth, and what learnings she can share. Learn what you can do to help end animal experimentation in Australia.

What inspired you to become an animal advocate and establish the Australian Association for Humane Research (now HRA) in 1979?

I’ve been an animal lover all my life and I’ve been a vegetarian for 89 years, I just felt that I couldn’t cope with the whole issue of animal experimentation. But then I went to listen to Elizabeth McFadden’s talk at Sydney University, which must have been in the early part of the Seventies. What struck me was the sheer size of the industry. I just couldn’t believe it because I think so many people think it’s a few noble scientists working with a few dogs or this sort of thing. And yet when you think of what we’re up against, we’re up against an enormous industry, the animals, the animal breeders, they’re multinationals

When do you see an end to animal experimentation? 

I think our only hope is the development of alternatives, but it’s not going to happen quickly.

What was the Australian public’s view of animal experimentation in the 70’s.

How was animal experimentation viewed by the Australian public? Well, they were pretty unaware. I was giving a talk with Anne Keogh to a group of women at Tattersalls in the city and two of the women [said] “Oh, but we don’t do that sort of thing in Australia.” You see they were completely unaware and of course we’re awfully good – human beings – at denying something if we don’t want to believe it.

How did Helen Marston’s appointment as CEO come about? 

I’d retired and I just couldn’t face the thought of going in and running the organization single-handedly again, without any help in building it up. I had heard of the good reputation that Helen had. She had been before some government committee, and she had spoken very well and knew what she was talking about.  I invited her to come up to Sydney and we had a long talk and she agreed to take over HRA.

What has kept you motivated throughout the year? 

The animals. This is a passion of my life and I feel that every little bit adds.


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