Animal rights activists target Oxford donors

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The Independent Online

Animal right activists campaigning against an animal research testing laboratory at Oxford University have turned their attention to the university's financial backers.

The university obtains about half its annual funding each year from private sources. A court order granted to Oxford in November protects its employees and contractors from harassment from activists. The order does not cover its donors.

The main group of protesters, called Speak, told members they should contact, in particular, members of the organisation representing the City of London Solicitors' Company, the leading lawyers working in the Square Mile. It provides funding for the university's law faculty.In an e-mail to activists, Speak said the group had granted up to £100,000 to the university in recent years and gave out contact details of dozens of members, who include lawyers at Clifford Chance, Norton Rose, Herbert Smith and Denton Wilde Sapte.

Speak told members: "Please contact them and politely inform them of what type of experiments are going on at the university and about the professor involved in the recent cruelty case. Ask them to make a statement that they will not be providing funding to the university until animal abuse at Oxford University is ended."

One of those named, Alastair Collett, of Farrer & Co, who is master of the City of London Solicitors' Company, said he had received e-mails from Speak but did not know why. He said: "We have nothing to do with animals. Our concern is legal education."

Oxford halt ed construction of the animal testing centre after a campaign of intimidation led to its construction contractor, Montpellier, abandoning the job. A spokeswoman for the university said: "It is legitimate for these people to make their views known but we would be very concerned by any suggestion of intimidation or harassment."

The tactic announced by Speak echoed the successful campaign run by another group of activists against Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal testing business. City institutions connected with Huntingdon were targeted, along with suppliers and customers.

Speak said: "One of [Oxford's] most important sources of funding comes from donations from private sector companies, foundations and individuals. Without these, the university would soon become financially insolvent. In other words, they are not going to have the money to finish building their new animal research laboratory, let alone fill it with animals to be butchered."