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scientists react to court decision on Oxford animal testing protestors

These comments were collected in responses to the court ruling which banned animal rights activists from protesting next to Oxford University’s new animal testing centre.

Professor Colin Blakemore, Chief Executive of the MRC, said:

“The MRC respects the right of individuals to protest and believes it is vital to engage the public in open dialogue about animal research and science in general. However, when protest develops into intimidation and violence it is entirely unacceptable. We, therefore, welcome this decision which will enable people to work in a safe environment while conducting research that will benefit society as a whole.”

Dr Simon Festing, Executive Director of Research Defense Society, said:

“The research community is pleased that the courts are waking up to the gravity of animal rights extremism. Researchers and suppliers should be allowed to do their legitimate work without relentless intimidation and harassment. We hope that the new injunction will make it easier for the police to act against the small number of bullies who are seeking to cripple medical research in the UK.”

Professor John Stein, Department of Physiology, University of Oxford, said:

“This will make it safer for people like me who do experiments on animals to explain why animal experiments are necessary and why they benefit humanity. All drugs developed and most surgical procedures, such as deep brain surgery for the alleviation of motor disorders such as Parkinson’s, are derived from experiments on animals. More specifically the work I have done using animals has enabled me to develop procedures to help children with dyslexia to learn to read. This is a condition that effects one in ten children and my work can help save them from misery and lack of fulfillment. However, I am accused by animal rights group’s websites of torturing animals; this is despite the fact none of my experiments cause any pain.”

Aisling Burnand, Chief Executive, BioIndustry Association (BIA), said:

“This is a positive outcome, but it is still a concern that organisations are being forced down the civil injunction route rather than being protected by legislation, so the Government’s plans to introduce new legislative measures are very welcome.”

Roger Morris, Professor Of Molecular Neurobiology, Kings College London, said:

“Great. This is a real victory for the many thousands who suffer from diseases such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or severe, suicidal depression and those whose lives are blighted by asthma or other disabling allergies. For too long research that will make a real impact upon our treatment of such diseases has been disrupted by a few urban terrorists. It is now clear that the government and the courts are standing up for human rights as well as animal rights. Oxford University is to be congratulated for taking this opportunity to use the law to stop these bullies.”

Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon where the University animal research centre is sited, and Lib Dem member of the Science Select Committee, said:

“I welcome the restrictions that the court has imposed to protect law-abiding citizens doing lawful, regulated work from harassment and intimidation.

“However today’s ruling shows that existing laws and current Government policy are inadequate to ensure that crucial science and improved facilities for research animals continues. We need new legislation and for the Government to underwrite the increased insurance cists of firms and individuals working in this area.”

Diana Garnham, Chief Executive, Association of Medical Research Charities, said:

“This decision is very welcome news. University researchers have been intimidated and threatened by a minority of animal extremists. I believe it is right that the law should offer this protection. It will enable medical research that will benefit those suffering from life threatening and debilitating disease to continue, and very importantly, to continue within the university setting.”

Professor Chris Higgins, Director MRC Clinical Sciences Centre, Imperial College London, Hammersmith Hospital Campus, said:

“Finally we are seeing action taken against a small minority who are trying to prevent essential research which will lead to improved healthcare, and whose actions are stopping Oxford investing in state-of-the-art buildings to improve animal welfare.”

David Morton, Professor of Biomedical Science & Ethics at University of Birmingham, said:

“It is essential that animal research is conducted in up-to-date purpose-made buildings to provide good animal welfare that will ensure good science, so that there will be a better understanding and a better chance for the development of treatments for both human and animal diseases.”

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

“This is really good news because this research needs to move forward.”

Professor PM Headley, Department of Physiology, Bristol University, said:

“There is no doubt at all that the use of animals in research is vital in generating the knowledge needed to develop new therapies for major diseases. However, that is scarcely the issue here. What is at stake is the right of scientists to undertake fully controlled and legally-approved research without themselves, their employers and the companies that supply them being subjected to intimidating and often frankly illegal acts. Any action in law that facilitates legal activities such as this kind of irreplaceable research should be welcomed by all those who value democratic rights as well as future medical progress.”

Professor Bell, Regis Professor of Medicine, Oxford University Medical School, said:

“Oxford University is strongly committed to undertaking research for the benefit of human health and, sometimes by necessity, that research requires the use of animals. As an institution we are committed to the highest ethical standards in animal experimentation and strive to fund alternative ways to study and develop treatments for disease. We have one of the leading programmes developing a vaccine for HIV and are also developing novel approaches to neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease – these experiments cannot be done without the use of animal experimentation and, given the profound impact that these disease have on human health, we believe that the approaches we are taking are appropriate.

“This injunction will be welcomed by many scientists in Oxford who are striving to develop novel treatments for serious diseases and who have been extremely anxious about intimidation which has occurred in their community as a result of the new facility being built in Oxford.”

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