Letter: Protesters in peril

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your reaction to the Government's latest plan to restrict our liberties is strangely mealy-mouthed ("There is no place for intimidation in a democracy", 1 February).

We utterly oppose attacks on human beings by animal rights people; human beings are, after all, mammals too. But there are already sanctions in the law to deal with such crimes and to introduce a charge of "economic damage" will emasculate protest. Of course, protesters want to damage the economic interests of Huntingdon Life Sciences, just as many would like to damage the economic interests of arms manufacturers. That is what protests are largely about and, if it can also be done by persuading third parties that animal experimentation is wrong and that they should not be supporting such centres, then that is fair enough.

In any case, the extrapolation of results from animal research to human beings is extremely dubious. The likelihood of finding cures for Aids, cancer or Alzheimer's from animal experimentation is pretty remote. The reason for continuing with these experiments is presumably that the results persuade courts that pharmaceutical companies have taken care and, for that reason, there is money to be made. That is the bottom line and that is why our grubby little government is so concerned.

Professor R A SHARPE


Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire