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Animal rights extremists arrested in nationwide raids

Published on 02/05/07 at 03:25pm

More than 30 suspected animal rights extremists have been arrested in raids across the UK and Europe in one of the largest operations of its kind.

Extremists have waged a long-term campaign of terror on companies involved in testing new drugs and treatments on animals, often targeting their employees by harassment, intimidation or even assault.

The BioIndustry Association welcomed the arrests and its chief executive, Aisling Burnand, said they would be "a great fillip to the medical research community".

"We very much hope that such a coordinated investigation will help to put an end to the criminal activities of those individuals who remain determined to disrupt ground-breaking medical research," she added.

Mobile phones, computers and around £100,000 in cash were among the items seized by police who made the arrests under legislation introduced in 2005 to combat illegal protests.

Assistant chief constable Adrian Leppard, Kent Police, said: "The victims of animal rights extremism are not only companies or universities. It is employees, along with their families, friends and neighbours, who often are often targeted in their own homes.

"The impact of these personalised campaigns on individuals is deeply distressing and often involves criminal activity."

The two-year operation was co-ordinated by the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit, set up in 2004 to tackle domestic extremism - the most common form of which concerns animal rights.

Premises were raided in Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Greater London, Merseyside, Worcestershire, South Wales, Lancashire, Northumbria and Yorkshire. Properties in Belgium and the Netherlands were also searched, but no arrests were made.

"Recent efforts of the police, government and judiciary have resulted in a significant decline in the incidence of animal rights extremism and are much welcomed by the UK's bioscience community," commented Burnand.

Figures released by the industry earlier this year showed a sharp fall in attacks by animal activists, with no personal assaults in 2006 and big drops in the number of abusive messages and incidents of property damage.



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