Animal rights lobby deters more firms

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The Independent Online

Animal rights protesters are forcing a growing number of suppliers to stop trading with companies involved in animal testing, according to new statistics from the pharmaceuticals industry.

Animal rights protesters are forcing a growing number of suppliers to stop trading with companies involved in animal testing, according to new statistics from the pharmaceuticals industry.

Forty-two companies "capitulated" in the final three months of last year in the face of pressure from campaigners, the Association of the British Pharmaceuticals Industry said yesterday.

That showed an increasing trend - compared with 22, 23 and 26 companies in the first three quarters of the year - and follows an upsurge in damage to property over the summer. Philip Wright, the director of science and technology at the ABPI, said: "If this trend continues, it is by no means fanciful to suggest that pharmaceutical companies will seriously consider whether it is still appropriate to carry out this essential research work in the UK."

The ABPI recorded 177 cases of damage to company and personal property in 2004, up one-fifth on the previous year and almost three times the number recorded in 2002. There were also 108 cases of abusive or threatening phone calls or text messages, up from 38 the previous year.

The figures refer to a year in which protesters forced the University of Cambridge to abandon plans for a vivisection laboratory, saying the costs of security would be too high, and when several contractors building a similar facility in Oxford - including RMC and Montpellier - pulled out of the project after being targeted.

However, the number of "home visits" - where protesters gather outside the home of a company director or employee - declined last year and there were at least 124 arrests, almost three times as many as in the previous year. For the first time, there were no physical attacks on workers associated with vivisection.

The pharmaceuticals industry says animal experiments are legally and scientifically necessary before it begins testing potential new medicines on humans.

The Government is giving police new powers to curb home visits, under which theycan ban activists from returning to individuals' homes for three months. A specialist unit is being set up within the National Crime Squad to target leading extremists.

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