Sunday, February 06, 2005


Animal rights activists in the UK could face five years in jail for targeting firms linked to animal research facilities, under new government plans. The amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill covers suppliers such as construction firms or cleaners working for animal research firms. Measures to stop harassment of animal research facilities and their employees are already in the bill.

Campaigners say the government's proposed laws are not justified. The amended bill would make it a criminal offence to cause "economic damage" through campaigns of intimidation.

The plans already in the bill include giving police powers to arrest anyone protesting outside the homes of scientists - and the power to ban them from returning to a specified home for three months. Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt told BBC News: "We can't have these extremists going way beyond the bounds of peaceful protest into these vicious campaigns of intimidation which have not been stopped by individual laws." She added: "The simple fact is attacks by animal rights extremists put medical breakthroughs in areas like Aids, cancer and Alzheimer's directly at risk." Ms Hewitt said the new law would not affect people's "important right" to peaceful protest but would "crack down hard" on extremists committing crimes....

The powers to take action against attacks on companies in the supply chain covers company employees, their relatives, business suppliers, plus charity shops and universities.

The government plans follow attacks on centres such as the Huntingdon Life Sciences and a farm in east Staffordshire where guinea pigs are bred for medical research. Suppliers have also been targeted - last year work on Oxford University's new testing laboratory had to be halted after contractors complained they had been harassed and intimidated by animal rights activists.

Medical Research Council chief executive Professor Colin Blakemore welcomed the announcement, saying: "It is essential that researchers and those working with them are able to carry out their work without fear of intimidation."

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