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Big drop in animal rights attacks

Published on 31/01/06 at 04:27pm

The number of attacks by animal rights extremists saw a significant fall in 2005, with new laws introduced during the year helping to combat the terror campaigns.

Figures from the ABPI show that in 2005 there were 85 instances of damage to property compared with 177 the previous year. Even more encouragingly, only 10 were recorded in the last three months of the year - a significant drop on each of the other quarters.

Abusive or threatening letters and text messages received by companies and their suppliers also fell from 108 in 2004 to 36 in 2005.   

Despite these encouraging trends, the number of 'capitulations' - companies and organisations agreeing not to work with those involved in animal research - remained on a similar level, with 103 in 2005 and 113 in 2004.

"While the figures are undoubtedly encouraging, there is still some way to go," said Dr Philip Wright, director of science and technology at the ABPI.

"The number of incidents has reduced dramatically, but 85 instances of criminal damage during the year is still 85 instances too many.

"However, I am very hopeful that sustained government commitment, the recognition by the courts of the severity of the crimes, and the provisions of the Serious Organised Crime Act, which came into effect halfway through last year, will combine to reduce the amount of criminal activity still further."

The number of 'home visits' where demonstrators gather outside the private homes of people working with or for the pharmaceutical industry to make a disturbance, often in the middle of the night, also dropped dramatically, down by around two thirds. But although the total number of incidents declined, there has been a significant increase in the number of aggressive attacks.

"Eight incendiary devices, coupled with the fact that there were also six attacks on people causing injury, is a worrying development," said Dr Wright. "In some ways, it shows how successfully the extremists have been blocked from other forms of illegal activity, but violent attacks on individuals is an appalling way of trying to frighten people from carrying out their legitimate business of helping research and develop new medicines."

Related feature:

Animal rights and wrongs

Government laws to stop the number of animal activist attacks and reverse the fall in UK R&D spending seems to be working, but the level of violence may be increasing.





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