Pharmaceutical industry groups today welcomed new government legislation, which ensures animal extremists who are found guilty of 'economic damage' to research laboratories will face imprisonment of five years.
The additional proposals as part of the Serious & Organised Crime Bill come after years of campaigning by pharmaceutical organisations and regulatory bodies, who said the future of UK pharma research was under jeopardy by the actions of these protestors.
Companies that deal with the animal research industry, including couriers and cleaners, are to be given protection from intimidation, while police will be authorised to arrest any protestors demonstrating outside the homes of scientists. Additionally, protesters can be barred from the vicinity of someone's house for three months.
Today's news comes after a wave of successful attempts by the extremists to intimidate the suppliers and contractors to the vivisection industry. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector have been increasingly lobbying the government for greater powers of protection.
"Around 50 per cent of the world's diseases have no cure and animal research is currently vital for the development of innovative treatments to meet unmet medical need," said Aisling Burnand, chief executive of the BioIndustry Association (BIA).
"Treatments are currently being developed for cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's that would not be possible without animal research. The regulations governing animal research in the UK are very strict, and such research is also carried out only where necessary."
The series of high profile attacks on centres such as the Huntingdon Life Sciences site and the abandonment of plans to build a primate research centre at Cambridge University has demonstrated the lengths the protestors are prepared to go, says the industry.
Huntingdon has been the target of a four-year campaign of violence, which has seen extremists attack homes of its workers. Night-time raids, car vandalism and the graffiti on front doors and walls has also been reported.
Cambridgeshire Constabulary say they have spent more than 35,000 working hours dealing with animal rights activists since 2000.
In one of the worst incidents managing director Brian Cass was beaten with baseball bats by three masked attackers. Employees of firms dealing with Huntingdon have also been targeted, with one having his car tyres slashed as he sat in his vehicle.
The Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) also warmly welcomed the latest measures commenting that this would be "a watershed not just in terms of removing a key concern about further investment in to the UK, but also in the drive to develop new medicines for patients."
ABPI director of science and technology, Dr Philip Wright added: "Since the announcement of further government action on this issue in July, the Government has listened carefully to all stakeholders affected by animal rights extremism."
"No one wishes to curb those who wish to make legitimate, peaceful protest within the law, but the activities of animal extremists have descended into a pattern of harassment, intimidation and violence that cannot be tolerated in a civilised society."