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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 May 2007, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Rescue centre raid 'heavy handed'
Map showing Ince Blundell
The manager of a Merseyside animal welfare centre raided by police looking for animal rights activists has condemned the action as "heavy handed".

Dave Calendar, of Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell, Merseyside, said some of his staff were injured by police during the raid.

But the force insists that its officers were "professional and courteous".

A total of 30 people were arrested for alleged animal rights extremism in raids across the UK and Europe.

'Very rough'

About 700 police officers executed warrants at 30 addresses across the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.

As well as Merseyside, raids also took place in Lancashire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, Greater London, Worcestershire, Northumbria, Yorkshire and Surrey.

Mr Calendar said the police arrived at about 0600 BST and were "extremely heavy-handed in their approach".

He claimed his farm manager was jumped on by police and that officers were "very rough" with a veterinary student.

I am not proud of my past but all that was a long time ago and we have absolutely nothing to hide
Dave Calendar, manager of Freshfields animal welfare centre

"We're not being allowed anywhere near the place to care for the animals. It is a real cock-up on the police's part."

The centre, which is close to Formby, houses about 70 dogs, 100 cats, a large number of rabbits and a few farm animals, including pigs, hens and geese.

In 1994 Mr Calendar was jailed for eight years for conspiracy to commit arson on animal rights "targets". He served four years.

He said: "I am not proud of my past but all that was a long time ago and we have absolutely nothing to hide.

"Yes, there are a few old hippies here who were part of the hunt saboteur scene or involved in stopping badger baiting, but the work we do now is totally legitimate.

"This centre is purely about animal welfare and is nothing to do with animal rights groups."

Animal welfare 'priority'

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Byrne said his officers' behaviour was in no way heavy-handed.

"Our response was completely proportionate," he said.

"There have been a number of arrests at the site - all for breaches of the peace and for attempting to assault officers."

Mr Byrne also denied claims that the welfare of animals was not considered during the raid.

He said: "While one dog did reach the road, it was recovered without incident and was never in danger as the roads had been closed to traffic.

"Animal welfare has been a priority in the planning of this operation, with RSPCA officers and trained police dog handlers present throughout the search," he added.


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