Government to curb animal rights extremists

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The Independent Online

The Government is planning new legislation to tackle an upsurge in animal rights extremism, the Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, signalled yesterday.

The Government is planning new legislation to tackle an upsurge in animal rights extremism, the Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury, signalled yesterday.

Moves under consideration include extra police powers to limit protests outside the homes of people working in the healthcare industry, and changes to the way court injunctions against protesters can be obtained.

Lord Sainsbury said the Home Office was looking at ways of limiting what animal rights protesters call "home visits", where people in or connected with vivisection companies are targeted through peaceful protests or attacks at their home.

New powers allowing the police to restrict the activities of protesters in groups as small as two came into force in January, but the healthcare industry says this has failed to halt a rise in incidents. Last month, a victims support group was set up to campaign for a strengthening of the law.

Lord Sainsbury told the Science and Technology Select Committee that there would be an announcement soon. Sources said any new proposals could be included in criminal justice legislation already going through Parliament.

There was disappointment for the biotech industry, though, which was again rebuffed in its campaign for a single piece of legislation to tackle animal rights extremism, a law it says should be akin to the one that helped tackle football hooliganism. The minister said it would be too slow to implement.

Aisling Burnand, of the Bioindustry Association, said: "This is a breakthrough. A few months ago, Lord Sainsbury was saying there was more than enough legislation. Clearly that was not the case. Since then there has been an escalation in the number of incidents; the collapse of the plan to build a research centre in Cambridge, and now targeting in Oxford."

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