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Could animal activists affect your research?

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 01 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:0411422
  1. Ruwanee Haris, freelance journalist1
  1. 1London

Plans to give UK police more power when dealing with animal rights activists have been well publicised recently, together with pharmaceutical companies taking their research and animal tests elsewhere to avoid huge security costs. But how much is the activity of animal activists affecting researching doctors? Ruwanee Haris finds out

High profile research institutions, such as Huntingdon Life Sciences, have repeatedly been targeted by extremist groups in the United Kingdom. But as research on animals is connected with so many practicing clinicians, should they worry about the repercussions? Yes, says the security manager of a leading research institution, “The first thing doctors going into animal research have to be aware of is that their line of business is not a normal one. It will involve activists, and you have to know about the dangers.”

Spokesman for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Matt Worrell, says, “It has been estimated that universities have added security costs of up to £175 000 a year if they carry out animal research. It's more difficult for academic institutions than for private companies. They have to be open access and can't just stick up barbed wire and have Securicor guard the entrances.”

Last month saw Animal Rights 2004--the first international conference held in the United Kingdom which welcomed activists and speakers from France, Holland, Germany, Italy, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Columbia, Ireland, Sweden, Finland, and Japan.

An American speaker, Jerry Vlasak, was publicly banned from visiting the United Kingdom to attend the conference, after he allegedly advocated the murder of vivisectionists in a newspaper interview. A video recording of his talk was played at the conference instead.

The weekend conference was dubbed by the media as an “animal rights terrorist training camp,” amid reports of self defence classes preparing people for combat …

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