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Blair speaks out against animal extremists

Published on 15/05/06 at 06:05pm

Prime Minister Tony Blair has spoken out against animal rights activists, saying it was time for the 'silent majority' to take a stand against intimidation and violence used by extremists.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Blair said he had added his name to an online petition in support of animal testing - a move that he underlined was a break from prime ministerial tradition.

He said:  "It [is a] sign of just how important I believe it is that as many people as possible stand up against the tiny group of extremists threatening medical research and advances in this country."

Blair's support for the growing pro-testing movement comes just as animal rights groups have launched a fresh wave of attacks designed to undermine testing in the UK.

Activists have written intimidating letters to private and institutional investors in GlaxoSmithKline, warning them to sell their shares in the company or potentially face persecution.

The Prime Minister says a proposed new law, the Company Law Reform Bill would help to stop activists from using such tactics, allowing company directors to keep their home addresses private, and preventing companies from releasing the names and details of its shareholders unless for a legitimate reason.

Blair concluded saying: "Hundreds of millions of people in the UK and around the world today are alive and healthy because of the pioneering work of our scientists and researchers.

"Many millions more will be spared an early death or a life of pain because of the research now under way. They deserve our support. And they should get it."

In another sign that the tide may be turning in favour of the medical researchers, major City investors said they would not be intimidated by the latest threats.

UK pharmaceutical industry body the ABPI has welcomed the new support.

"Both these moves represent a further determination by Britain's leaders - both in and beyond the medical research community - to stand up against the extremists who threaten, harass and intimidate," said the organisation's Director General Dr Richard Barker.

"The British public is fed up with a campaign of terror which, if successful, would mean the end of much medicines research in this country. It is high time that we all joined together to stand up to the bully-boys of animal extremism.

"It would add to the extremist's discomfiture if other businesses that have in the past felt obliged to give in to their threats now reviewed their policy and determined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us."

Laws introduced in 2005 seem to be having an effect on the number of violent attacks on animal testing centres and people associated with them. The ABPI says it is reassured by the Prime Minister's willingness to introduce further new laws to stop the intimidation of shareholders.




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