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Animal extremism: Queen announces law changes

05-Dec-2004

New laws to stop increasingly violent animal extremists from harassing scientists involved in medical experiments have received the seal of approval by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI).

Determined to tackle what has long been a highly emotive issue for animal-loving Britons, the UK government has introduced legislation to stop activists targeting scientists at their homes.

Also included in the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, are measures to strengthen police powers to direct protesters away from people's homes, including bans of up to three months.

 

These legislative moves by the UK Government could be seen as a way to appease pharmaceutical companies who recently expressed discontent at the rising number of violent attacks by animal rights extremists. They had made it clear they would not make any new investments in research in the UK unless the intimidation is brought under control.

 

Just last month Swiss health care group Novartis became the latest firm to say rights campaigners might force it to rethink investments in Britain.

 

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier has been quoted as saying several smaller companies had withdrawn from doing research work in the UK because of fear of attacks.

 

In January, Cambridge University abandoned plans to build a £32 million (€46 million) neurology centre, in part by protests, some of them violent and plans for a Cambridge primate laboratory had to be scrapped. A planned research laboratory at Oxford University was also halted because of the costs of protecting against attacks.

 

Scientists working at institutions such as Britain's oldest drug-testing firm, Huntingdon Life Sciences, have long complained militants who oppose their work target them physically and verbally.

 

Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI said: "The measures announced by the Government are vital if we wish to see the continued development of new medicines in Britain."

 

"Companies talking of moving their work to other countries, which would be a disaster for Britain. We sincerely hope these new measures will curb the illicit activities of the violent few."

 

In the first nine months of this year alone, there were almost 150 demonstrations outside the homes of private individuals, as well as 142 instances of damage to company, personal or public property.

 

These scare tactics by the activists seem to have their intended effect. Only last week, animal rights activists were claiming a high-profile victory yesterday after BOC, Europe's second largest industrial gas group, severed its ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal-testing company.

 

BOC said selling gas to Huntingdon Life Sciences was not profitable when the cost of protecting itself from animal rights protesters was taken into consideration.

 

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