Violent protests taper off

January 25, 2002

The number of violent protests against scientists who use animals in their work seems to have declined in recent months.

The House of Lords select committee on animals in scientific procedures has heard from several witnesses that pressure from extremists had eased in much of the research community, though harassment of Huntingdon Life Sciences staff has continued.

The shift was attributed in part to tougher legislation curbing the targeting of researchers. Reaction to the September 11 terrorist atrocities may also have affected the protesters' strategy.

Colin Blakemore, professor of physiology and director of the Oxford Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience, believes the worst days may be over. He told the committee: "In the academic community, there is gratitude for the change in the government's attitude."

Ray Hill, senior pharmacologist at drugs giant Merck Sharp and Dohme, said:

"The government's much tougher attitude to this terrorism has really encouraged us."

Simon Festing, director of the Research for Health project at the Association of Medical Research Charities, said some animal-rights extremists seemed to be moving away from violence.

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