Brussels, 29 Jul 2004
Responding to the increasingly aggressive stance of UK animal rights campaigners, the three largest pharmaceutical companies with research facilities in the UK, Astra Zaneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer have announced they will donate four million GBP (6.05 million euro) to medical research at UK universities in the fields of pharmacology, physiology and toxicology.
The funds will pay for research using animals for the development of new medicines, laboratory equipment and the training of students and scientists to do animal experiments.
'This new fund will help ensure the quality of the basic animal research carried out in British universities,' explained the three firms in a statement. 'Discovering and developing new medicines and vaccines is dependent upon being able to recruit graduates and postgraduates of the highest calibre from higher education.'
The UK science minister, Lord Sainsbury, welcomed the move, saying it was 'valuable additional research funding'.
'Developing and fostering new skills in pharmacology, physiology and toxicology is essential for the UK science base. The partnership between GSK, AZ, Pfizer and the British Pharmacological Society will help to maintain our current position of cutting edge excellence in this area,' he added.
This move follows the recent announcement that a construction group had pulled out of building an animal research centre at Oxford University because of attacks. In January, Cambridge University abandoned a plan for a new primate research centre after a similar campaign.
Several drug companies have already warned that the increasing occurrence of attacks from animal rights activists could force them to move their research facilities elsewhere.
Earlier in the week, in an interview with the Financial Times, Jean-Pierre Garnier, the head of GlaxoSmithKline, said that 'the animal rights issue has killed more investment and more science-base jobs than anything I can think of.'
Also speaking to the Financial Times, Professor Chris Higgins of the Medical Research Council, said 'If the pharmaceutical industry pulls out of this country, the economy will be hard hit. That would dramatically affect the research base.'
Professor Higgins admitted that animal work is objectionable, but insisted that there is no substitute 'If there were alternatives people would undoubtedly use them,' he told the Financial Times.
Wendy Higgins, the campaign director at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) rejected this claim, stating in an interview with the BBC that 'Anti-vivisectionists are not opposed to medical research. But there is increasingly evidence to show animal research is holding back science.'
The UK government is expected to announce new legal protection for scientists who are facing threats from animal rights groups.