Animal activists hamper Dutch science park construction

By Kirsty Barnes

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: United kingdom, Animal liberation front, Animal rights

A Dutch developer has pulled out of a €60m project to build a
science park in the country after it was "continually
confronted" by animal rights extremists.

The activists have been claiming the new site would be extensively used to conduct animal studies on behalf of pharmaceutical and chemicals firms, effectively branding it a new commercial animal testing centre. In a statement released, Van der Looy indicated it would be withdrawing its involvement in the project effective immediately following months of "unacceptably threatening"​ behaviour directed at the firm and its employees by certain animal rights crusaders. The project management company was contracted by local and regional authorities to build what is called Science Link, a life-science industrial park to be situated in Venray, southern Netherlands. It was to house approximately 50,000 square meters of commercial space, including offices, business and laboratories, and provide employment for between 400 and 600 people. Van der Looy claims that since the start of its involvement with the project, a number of its employees have received a string of personal threats, by post, telephone and e-mail. However, the final straw came over Christmas when several of its project managers had their houses vandalised by paint, by activists threatening to use "more aggressive means"​ next time if they did not cut their ties with the science park development. The Dutch Animal Liberation Front has reportedly claimed responsibility for the graffiti, although it is believed that as yet, no arrests have been made. Announcing its retreat from the project, Van der Looy wrote on its website: "We hope that all our national and international relationships and clients understand this decision".​ Venray council is meeting today to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, it is still planned that construction of Science Link will go ahead, and a new contractor is now being sought to take over the project, although no companies have yet come forward to take on the challenge. Experiments on animals is a highly controversial and emotionally charged issue and the majority of those who are against it choose to express their opposition via peaceful protests. There are, however, a handful of activists that choose to take the law into their own hands and resort to violent and intimidating acts. Past incidents have included a number of threatening letters being sent to a chain of children's nurseries that at the time had links with Huntingdon; a physical attack on the home of a senior executive of GSK; and the waging of a terror campaign against a family who bred guinea pigs for research purposes, which bizarrely included digging up their grandmother's grave and removing her remains. Historically, it has been the UK, rather than mainland Europe, that has bore the brunt of such acts of extremism, however, as the UK steps up its resolve to tackle its most common form of domestic extremism, there have been signs of similar trouble beginning to bubble under the surface of other Europe. Since new legislation was introduced in 2005, the UK now has the toughest laws in the world regarding this issue,​ BIA spokesperson Francetta Carr told Outsourcing-Pharma.com in an earlier interview. In May, UK police arrested 30 people in dawn raids across the country as part of 'Operation Achilles' - the largest police operation that has targeted animal extremism in the UK to date. The suspects had been under a police investigation for two years. But, while incidents in the UK are declining, the BIA did note it has seen indications of a displacement of such activity to mainland Europe. "Anecdotally, there were an increasing number of incidences in 2006 involving UK activists taking part in extremist activity abroad, primarily in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands,"​ ABPI spokesperson Matt Worrall told Outsourcing-Pharma.com in May. A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed at the time that such incidents involving UK citizens are increasingly taking place in Europe and said: "We are working with lots of overseas law enforcement agencies regarding the issue."​ In January last year, ABPI Science & Technology director, Dr Philip Wright even went as far as to say that proposed amendments in a new serious crime bill that would allow restriction of travel by organised criminals would "help in restricting the UK's currently most successful export".

Related topics: Preclinical Research, Preclinical

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