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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 14:53 GMT
Protests halt Dutch science park
By Dominic Bailey
BBC News

Artist's impression of how the park could look
Artist's impression of how Venray's business park could look
A Dutch council has condemned a campaign of harassment by animal rights protesters which forced a developer to withdraw from a science park project.

Developer Van der Looy has told Venray town council it is pulling out of the Sciencelink scheme. Building work had been due to start this month.

Anti-animal testing protesters are reported to have targeted the homes of some Van der Looy staff.

Sciencelink was to be a 60m-euro (45m;$90m) centre for life sciences.

The future of the development, which would have created around 400 jobs, now remains uncertain as the council considers its position.

The fact that an animal rights organisation can threaten our partners and have so much influence that the project stops is what worries us
Venray council spokeswoman

A Venray council spokeswoman said the park was aimed at technology-based organisations, with lots of facilities for research and development - which could include testing on animals for food or medication.

"Our partner in developing the business area has withdrawn co-operation because of several incidents involving animal liberation-style organisations," she told the BBC News website.

"We were surprised, as we didn't know that they were going to withdraw and were also shocked at the reasons why.

"Our council democratically chose to develop this area as a life science area and threats to houses of staff or cars or their person is not part of a democratic process."
Venray map

Police in Weert, where the targeted employees live, are investigating the incidents.

A spokeswoman for Van der Looy would not comment on the incidents or who might be behind them, saying only that there had been actions by groups that had not been appropriate.

Animal rights protesters are reported to have painted graffiti on homes of project managers.

A statement on the Stopdierproeven ("stop animal testing") website announced the "good news for animals" that the developer was pulling out.

It also warned that it would target any developer that decided to follow in the footsteps of Van der Looy.

'Form of terrorism'

Venray in the southern Netherlands is a town of about 40,000 people. Council leaders are still discussing what steps to take next. The council had been in negotiations with a number of companies interested in coming to the business park, but no one had signed up yet.

Christian Democrat Appeal councillor Gerda van Stelten-Houterman condemned the actions of the protesters.

"It is unacceptable and it is a form of terrorism what they are doing here," she said.

"If they have a problem with using animals for certain things, they have to give good information to the public, but they are showing images of monkeys in cages and that is already forbidden in Europe."

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28 Sep 07 |  England

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