New laws to crush animal protests

November 26, 2004

Protecting British science from animal rights extremists will form a key part of the Government's final Parliamentary term before the widely anticipated spring general election.

In the Queen's Speech this week, the Government outlined plans to clamp down on the intimidation of researchers who experiment on animals.

Measures to protect Britain's multibillion-pound pharmaceuticals industry, threatened by extremists, are expected to be a central theme of next week's Pre-Budget Report from the Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

At this week's state opening of Parliament, the Queen confirmed government plans to give police new powers against animal rights campaigns as part of a legislative programme of 32 new Bills under the theme of "opportunity and security".

The Home Office confirmed that a new Serious Organised Crime and Policing Bill in the new Parliament would include a section on extremists.

The Bill will give police powers to remove and arrest activists who protest outside or near the homes of researchers and their families, and those linked to animal research.

It will allow police to arrest protesters when they have left the scene, and will allow police to ban protesters from returning to a person's home for three months.

The Bill will also protect companies and universities from mass campaigns of harassment, by amending the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act to cover groups of people working for the same organisation, instead of just individuals.

Simon Festing, executive director of the Research Defence Society, welcomed the measures but said: "The extremists move so fast and things are already so bad that we would like to see further measures."

A spokeswoman for the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection said:

"Changes such as this would make lawful peaceful protest more difficult, and encourage the tiny vocal minority of animal rights extremists to act further in ways that... ultimately impede the progress of the animal rights movement."

Protecting Britain's reputation as a world centre for research will form a key element of Mr Brown's Pre-Budget Report on December 2. He told the CBI this month that firms conducting "potentially life-saving research" that was pivotal to economic success must be protected.

Mr Brown is understood to be concerned that antivivisection campaigns have cost the pharmaceuticals industry millions in security bills and are putting billions of pounds worth of foreign scientific investment at risk.

The Research Defence Society said it hoped the Chancellor would consider additional measures to prevent campaigns designed to cause economic damage, such as that against the firm supplying concrete for the construction of Oxford University's £18 million animal research facility.

* The Queen's Speech confirmed plans to extend child benefit payments to parents of 16 to 19-year-olds in vocational and work-based training as well as to those in full-time education.

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

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