Animal rights activists and vivisectionists meet for talks

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The Independent Online
COLIN BLAKEMORE, Oxford University scientist and bete noire of the animal rights movement, met some of his most bitter enemies yesterday in a government-led forum aimed at reconciling different views on vivisection.

Delegates at the meeting, which was held at a secret location in London for security reasons, included animal scientists, representatives of companies involved in animal experiments and anti-vivisectionists. It was chaired by the Home Office minister George Howarth.

The stated aim of the forum was to "encourage open and constructive dialogue and to identify common ground concerning the use of animals in scientific procedures".

Mr Howarth told the forum that the Home Office would look at ways of improving the sharing of data among all interested parties. He also said an audit should be carried out into current research into alternatives to animal experiments to ensure that money was being spent efficiently.

Professor Blakemore's appearance at the forum was extraordinary in that for a decade he has been the public enemy-in-chief of animal rights groups.

As the Waynflete Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, he is one of Britain's greatest experts on the working of the brain. But he has enraged vivisectionists with his experiments on kittens and monkeys.

Professor Blakemore, 54, lives under police protection; his children have been threatened with kidnap and he was the target of a letter bomb in June last year. Every weekend, groups gather and chant outside his Oxford home and, in January last year, bricks and bottles were hurled through his windows.

When the anti-vivisectionist Barry Horne went on hunger strike in prison earlier this year, an extremist group called the Animal Rights Militia threatened that if he was allowed to starve to death, Professor Blakemore would be assassinated.

Parties represented at yesterday's event included Advocates for Animals, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, the Laboratory Animal Science Association, the Institute of Animal Technology and the Government's chemical and biological defence establishment, Porton Down.

Among those addressing the meeting was Jan Creamer, the director of the National Anti- Vivisection Society, who called for greater freedom of information on animal experiments. She later described the forum as "very informative and very promising".