Outspoken neuroscientist and animal activist target Professor Colin Blakemore, 70, has said he is “delighted and surprised” to be knighted after controversially being overlooked by the honours system.
Sir Colin, who is included in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, is the only former chief executive of the Medical Research Council (MRC) to have left the post without a knighthood.
Leaked government documents suggesting he had been snubbed due to his high-profile association with animal research led to his threatened resignation as head of the MRC in 2003.
Speaking about his honour, Sir Colin said: “Life has its ups and downs: this is definitely an up!
“This is the cream on the cake - final evidence that things have changed right to the top of society.”
He insisted that when he threatened to resign it was not out of “pique” but because his work was threatened.
“It’s very easy to misinterpret what I did,” he said. “I just found myself in an untenable position because I was pursuing a policy of activism and communication in the MRC, appealing to scientists to involve themselves in public debate. I just felt my effectiveness was really being undermined.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, his open support for animal testing made him the target of a terror campaign. While many of his peers cowered before intimidation and threats of violence, Sir Colin continued to justify his work to journalists, politicians and anyone who would listen.
As a result, he endured regular loud abusive protests outside his house, smashed windows, letters laced with razor blades, parcel bombs, kidnap threats directed at his children, and physical assaults.
“It was tough in those days,” he said. “I was really in the eye of the storm. But giving in would only have made that kind of campaign more effective.”