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EXTREMISTS SEEK FRESH TARGETS CLOSE TO HOME

The Times, 25/08/2005


      By Nicola Woolcock BUOYED by their success in closing Darley Oaks guinea–pig farm, animal rights extremists will now inevitably seek a new cause.

Oxford University is the obvious target. Activists who have temporarily stopped the building there of an 18 million research laboratory are expecting their ranks to swell. Police believe, however, that an entirely new campaign focusing on a previously unknown company could also spring up.

A police source said that a new offensive against Sequani, a pharmaceutical research company in Ledbury, in Herefordshire, was under surveillance.

The guinea–pig farm in Newchurch is not the first victim of anti–vivisectionists. Consort Kennels, in Hereford, which bred beagles, closed in 1''7 after a ten–month campaign.

Protesters then targeted Hillgrove cats farm in Witney, Oxfordshire, which shut in August 1''' after a two–year campaign. Cambridge University abandoned its plans to build a primate research centre last year because of the rising cost of protection against activists.

Oxford University remains defiant. Work on its laboratory ground to a halt in July last year when the building contractors withdrew. The site remains half finished, but the university has vowed to complete the building and said yesterday that work could resume within months.

Speak, the organisation that targeted both Oxford and Cambridge, has led a vociferous campaign. In response, Oxford University took out a High Court injunction preventing the harassment of staff, students and their families.

Mel Broughton, a spokesman for Speak, said yesterday÷ Its inevitable that after the closure of Newchurch there will be an added focus on Oxford and other companies.

Were expecting numbers to swell the ranks. Its important÷ the Government has said that the Oxford lab is pivotal to the future of animal research and we feel exactly the same.

Oxford University said yesterday it was fully committed to resuming and completing the construction. A spokeswoman said÷ Anyone taking on this project will need to be assured that they are fully protected. We respect protesters rights to voice their views in a peaceful and lawful manner, and most do. That some take extreme measures is worrying to us, but we strongly feel it should not stop research that could be life saving.

Detectives say both Oxford and Sequani are likely targets. A source said÷ Were under no illusion. Protesters will travel, but like anyone else they also like a bit of convenience. Oxford University and Sequani both spring to mind.

The Stop Sequani Animal Testing campaign is already in full swing, with a website that lists organisations that have severed links with the company.

The website also urges people to send money to animal rights militants in prison.