Animal rights protesters unveiled a new tactic when, last Sunday, they broke into an Oxford research centre, released the animals and offered themselves up as experimental subjects instead. “It gave me the fright of my life,” says scientist Danny Boskage of the sight that greeted him when he entered his lab on Monday morning. “There I was, fully expecting to find a couple of dead hamsters in the nerve gas test – instead there was a six-foot tall shaven-headed protester jammed into the gas cabinet, stiff as a board and contorted into hideous death throes.” In another lab protesters had taken the place of beagles being used to research the health effects of smoking high tar cigarettes. “By the time we got to them they’d smoked over five hundred each,” reveals Boskage. “They were green and wheezing and the floor was covered in puke, blood and phlegm where they’d tried to cough their lungs out.” However, the worst was still to come – a semi-dissected activist was discovered in the main lab, where rabbits had been dissected in order to check the carcinogenic effects of certain drugs on their livers. “Somehow he had pinned himself to a dissecting tray, then opened himself up with a scalpel, peeling back the skin of his abdomen to display his innards,” recalls Boskage. “He’d even pulled out his intestines to better get at his organs. He had actually managed to hack out his liver and was holding it in his cold dead hand when we found him. It was in a shocking state – evidence of gross alcohol and drug abuse. I wouldn’t have given him more than six months, anyway.”

By the time they found the last three activists, Boskage and the other scientists were beginning to have serious doubt as to their actual intent. “For people who were allegedly trying to draw attention to the suffering of animals by martyring themselves in hideous ways, they certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves,” he opines. “I found two of them seriously injured in a firing range used to test the effectiveness of baton rounds on sheep – they were moaning in ecstasy at their pain! I let them have a couple more rounds myself. I just couldn’t help it – they were practically asking for it, what’s a man supposed to do?” The centre’s scientific staff were also left mystified by the protester found with his genitals wired to a car battery. “We don’t have any experiments exploring the effects of high voltages on genitalia,” muses Boskage. “His knackers were black and charred and all his pubes had been scorched away, but he had a smile on his face. Or perhaps it was just a rictus grin?”

Despite the high casualty rate and the fact that of the animals released, five beagles were shot by a local farmer for worrying his livestock and two sheep were run over on a nearby motorway, the protesters have hailed the raid on the labs a resounding success. “Look, the only way the public are ever going to understand just how much these poor animals suffer in these experiments is by subjecting human beings to the same depraved treatment,” a black balaclava clad Animal Rights Sabotage Echelon (ARSE) spokesperson told The Sleaze. “Don’t forget, those protesters who gave their lives in the labs were volunteers – unlike the animals, they had a choice!”

Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether this latest tactic gains any more public support than the activists’ other recent campaigns. An attempt to highlight the cruel exploitation of dogs and their exposure to unacceptable levels of risk by the police garnered much criticism after ARSE members kidnapped two drug-sniffing dogs at Heathrow Airport and, disguised as labradors, took their places. One activist overdosed fatally, whilst the other is still in rehab, after they were called upon to investigate a suspect shipment from Columbia. Inevitably, questions were raised as to the real motivations of the protesters involved. There was an even bigger backlash when ARSE succeeded in replacing make-up being used by several top models with scouring powder and other caustic substances, claiming that they were merely trying to replicate the suffering experienced by the lab animals the make-up products had been tested on. “We realise that such tactics were perhaps a mistake, and may have alienated the general public,” says the spokesperson. “However, we’re confident that by targetting those heartless bastards of scientists, we’ll get the public on our side this time. Face it, no one likes those supercilious egg-headed gits anyway, making the rest of us feel intellectually inferior. Arseholes!”

For their part, scientists have angrily rejected ARSE’s stereotyping of them as being callous and uncaring. “We don’t carry out experiments on animals just for the hell of it. Animal research isn’t a hobby – it’s carried out for serious and legitimate reasons. We’re trying to extend the frontiers of medical science and save human lives,” declares Boskage. “Besides, the animals enjoy it really. Take those beagles, the little bastards are always puffing away on a fag. They’re well known for trying to steal their owners cigarettes. Our labs are paradise for them! And as for the kittens we test cosmetics on – the little hussies are always stalking around caked in badly applied make-up. You should see the amount of mascara the average cat gets through!” Boskage and his colleagues have little time for the activists’ latest tactics. “If they want to take the place of experimental animals, it’s fine by me. At least we’d get quicker, more accurate results,” he says. “What are they going to do next – take the place of meat in restaurants and allow themselves to be cooked so as to save animal lives?”

ARSE’s next tactic is rumoured to be taking the place of foxes and allowing themselves to be torn apart by packs of savage hounds. In a bizarre twist, it is also believed that they are negotiating with the hunting fraternity to actually take the place of the hounds in several local hunts. “It’s a perfect solution – they get to stop the exploitation of the animals they care so much about, we get around the forthcoming ban on hunting with hounds,” Sir Thomas Wagstaffe, Master of the Cockshire Hunt, told The Sleaze. “And as an added bonus, we get to keep the numbers of these new countryside vermin under control!” The retired hounds, meanwhile, have apparently been found a new home in Oxford…