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scientists comment on animal rights extremist regulations

New regulations to control animal rights extremists were announced by the Home Office.

Professor Tipu Aziz, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Oxford University who himself has been a target in the past, said:

“I would like to thank Patricia Hewitt, Tony Blair and David Blunkett for this positive response. For the first time the government has been quite open in defending the benefits we get from animal research. I welcome the present changes but still feel we need to look at the further measures that the government have promised.”

An Oxford University researcher into animal welfare, said:

“Although legislation has a part to play, what we really need to do is change the culture in this country. Science education has a lower profile than the arts in the UK and people simply are not as interested. They want the medicine on the shelf and don’t want to think about how it was developed, much as people don’t want to think about how the meat on their dinner plate got there.”

Prof Chris Higgins, Director of Clinical Science, MRC, said:

“Put starkly, would you rather your child died or two and a half rats and mice.”

Dr Simon Festing, of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“Like a pack of hyenas, the extremists go for the softer targets. We can only hope these new Government measures will take the pressure off universities who cannot afford security and are meant to be open places of learning and debate.”

Ray Tallis, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, University of Manchester, said:

“As a clinician faced with care of patients who’ve benefited from animal research, I am profoundly shocked by the opposition to what is a vital component of medicine.”

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, Bioindustry Association, said:

“This is a big stride forward. The BIA has led the campaign for new measures to put a stop to the violence and intimidation suffered by those involved in medical research using animals. We welcome the fact that the Government has listened to our arguments for legislative change, and we are pleased that the door has not been closed on a single piece of legislation. It will be crucial to monitor the situation and conduct a review to ensure that these measures do effectively tackle animal extremism.”

Dr. Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

“Positive action by the government to curb this type of terrorism is to be welcomed. But we will have to wait and see how effectively it works. It is the delivery that matters; the rhetoric alone is not sufficient.

“Scientists in this field are undertaking vital research for the benefit of both human and animal health and should be assured they can carry out their legitimate work without being subjected to terrifying intimidation and cowardly attacks.”

Vicky Cowell, Director, Seriously Ill for Medical Research, said:

“Violence and intimidation by a manic minority of animal rights extremists is not acceptable. Seriously ill patients have rights too.”

Dr Trevor Jones, Director General of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said:

“The Government is now committed to solving the problem and has recognised that animal rights intimidation is now an issue of terrorism. Action has been needed for some time and they are plugging some important loopholes in the existing law. The Government has acknowledged that the idea of a new, single piece of legislation targeted at these extremists is still on the table. If the changes announced today are not effective, that option will have to be revisited quickly.”

Dr Mark Matfield, Executive Director of the Research Defence Society, said:

“Despite similar changes to existing laws in 2001 and 2003, the situation is getting worse, not better. Since 2002 we have seen a massive increase in abusive calls and email blockades, criminal damage to property, and targetting of people at home. A record number of companies – over 50 so far this year – have been forced to quit supplying animal laboratories as a result. Without long sentences for the extremists who organise such hate campaigns, this problem will not go away.

“The government’s plan is a promising step in the right direction. It remains to be seen whether it is tough enough. We have been putting the case for an Animal Rights Extremism Act that, while allowing legitimate peaceful protest to continue, would stop attacks by extremists. This may still be the only way to stop these vicious campaigns.”

Diana Garnham, Chair, Coalition for Medical Progress, said:

“Spitting, shouting abuse, intimidating family members and attacking property are not about free speech of putting a point of view, it is about inhibiting dialogue. Extremists aim to terrorise us into giving way or giving up. I believe society owes it to patients who suffer from diseases we currently know little about or cannot treat, the chance of a cure or improved quality of life. Animal based research is a small but important part of that goal. I will always put the patients first and I think most other people do.”

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