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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 July, 2004, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Action urged on animal activists
Animal rights activists
A legal animal rights demo
Animal rights activists who use terror tactics should be prosecuted under the terror laws, Shadow Home Affairs Minister Jacqui Lait has said.

Some 32 bio-tech firm directors and 22 staff members had been subjected to "terrifying home visits", Ms Lait said.

She also urged the government to bring in new laws to deal with the issue.

Home Office Minister Caroline Flint said there was sufficient legislation already and that a special unit had been set up to address the problem.

Why should animal terrorists be any different? Shouldn't they be charged under the terror laws?
Jacqui Lait
Shadow home affairs minister

But Ms Lait pointed to the decision to axe a planned primate research centre in Cambridge and the resignations of bio-tech chief executives because of threats they had received.

"These extremists are causing immense harm to our scientific and research base but the government does not appear to have the resolve to address this issue effectively," Ms Lait said.

Draconian powers and lengthy sentences had been brought in to deal with terrorists, she added during the debate in Westminster.

"Why should animal terrorists be any different? Shouldn't they be charged under the terror laws?" she asked the minister.

Ms Flint said the government took the problem very seriously and that it was prepared to look at bringing in new legislation.

But this should not be "narrow-minded", simply focusing on animal rights extremists, but also on other groups who undertook similar methods against people carrying out legal activities and duties.

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