Animal Rights

Last Friday night, shops in Arundel were daubed with "Animal Liberation Front" graffiti, with slogans such as "Meat is murder" and "Ban greyhound racing".

Whether this was a foolish hoax or a genuine attack by animal rights activists, it is deplorable that business people in our community should be subjected to this kind of abuse.

By co-incidence, in my role as a Shadow Home Affairs Minister, I held a meeting yesterday in the Commons with members of the BioIndustry Association. One of the companies represented was involved in developing life-saving drugs for cancer. Another was working on a cure for painful conditions afflicting the elderly.

Some of their work involved testing on animals, and they were concerned about harassment and intimidation of their staff, and threats to their companies.

In a recent two-year period, damage to property associated with the pharmaceutical industry trebled and instances of abusive or threatening phone calls from extremists rose fourfold.

Many constituents write to me about animal testing and I fully understand their concerns. I really hate the idea of animals suffering in experiments, and believe that it must be minimised.

I stressed to the industry representatives the importance of reinforcing their commitment to the principle of ‘Reduction, Refinement and Replacement', which I hope will lead to alternatives to the use of animals in scientific procedures. 

But where testing is essential to ensure the safety of drugs which can save lives and alleviate human suffering, I believe it is justified - with the tightest possible controls.

It is right to debate these issues carefully, and I will shortly be meeting representatives of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, a legitimate and non-violent lobby group, to hear their views.

But animal rights extremism which sees law-abiding people being intimidated, harassed or even attacked, or their property vandalised, is totally unacceptable.

Michelle Taylor