US animal activists may be kept out of UK

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is planning to ban three American animal rights activists from entering Britain after examining statements they have made that he fears could provoke violence.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is planning to ban three American animal rights activists from entering Britain after examining statements they have made that he fears could provoke violence.

Dr Steven Best, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas, El Paso, leading Animal Liberation Front member Rod Coronado, and trauma surgeon Dr Jerry Vlasak have received letters from the Home Office asking them to clarify their positions. If Mr Blunkett is not satisfied with their answers they will be prevented from entering the country.

Next month the three Americans are due to address a training camp in Kent organised by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), one of Britain's most prominent and militant anti-vivisection protest groups.

Last week, The Independent on Sunday revealed that 300 animal rights activists from around the world would be travelling to the UK in September for a four-day training camp. Sessions will include workshops in unarmed combat and how to evade arrest.

On Friday the Government promised to end the "animal extremists' reign of terror", announcing a range of tough new measures. They included fresh police powers to clamp down on protests outside scientists' homes.

Mr Coronado created an Animal Liberation Front cell in America which operated throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In 1994 he was jailed for four years following an arson attack at Michigan State University's mink research facilities. Following his release, Mr Coronado gave an interview to Earth First!, a radical US environmental journal, in which he called upon fellow animal rights activists to cause "maximum destruction".

In January last year Mr Coronado told an audience of fellow militant protesters that corporations should appreciate the fact that protest groups were only targeting their property and not them. In an interview with LA Weekly last August, he claimed that "corporate executives are no longer going to find their own homes safe havens".

Despite his outspoken views and criminal record, Mr Coronado has visited the UK on several occasions since his release in 1998.

Dr Best has consistently argued that violence forms a necessary part of the animal liberation movement. He has accused moderate anti-vivisectionists who practice non-violence of being "flat out wrong". Earlier this year, in an article entitled "A Case for Direct Action", Dr Best defended the type of home demonstration that the new Home Office proposals intend to stamp out. The trauma such demonstrations can cause to children, Dr Best argued, was "inconsequential when compared with what animals suffer" in research laboratories.

Mr Blunkett has already threatened to prevent Dr Vlasak from entering the country. Last month, he had told an animal rights conference in Washington DC: "I don't think you'd have to kill too many [researchers]. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives."

A final decision on whether to allow the three activists into the country will be taken later this month.

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