Existing UK legislation is to be extended to protect scientists from extremist animal rights campaigners.
Home Office minister Caroline Flint said despite the UK having the "strongest laws in the world" on the use of animals in research, people were being attacked "for doing nothing illegal".
It also follows concern that the economy is being harmed by the security costs faced in dealing with such activism.
The Bank of England recently took the unusual step of acting as banker to Huntingdon Life Science.
No other bank would because of protest fears.
But Heather James from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) said that "changing the law is not going to make a difference".
Do you agree with this proposed legislation change? Should scientists and their families be given protection? Will it hinder campaign action?
This Have Your Say has now closed. Thank you for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we received:
We should not do things to animals that we are not prepared to do to ourselves. Animals are the innocent victims of human cruelty. It must stop. Protests are a legitimate method of getting the message across. They are not the only tool. Intimidation, however, is not acceptable. But may the protests continue.
David, Cornwall, UK
I hate to bring up the old debate of "The Greater Good", but in this case, it is necessary. Most life saving drugs have to be tested on animals before they are used on the public at large. Or would some of you prefer testing on human beings? Next time you need at drug to fight cancer or to cure a disease, please remember that animal testing played an integral role in the development of those drugs. Or maybe the activists should boycott the use of these drugs because they are used on animals? How many of you activists are willing to do that? Will you turn down a drug that could save your life because it was tested on animals? I didn't think so.
Mark Phillipps, Brisbane, Australia
If you think the law is wrong then seek to change it, you have no right to take the law into your own hands. The law can be changed - just look at the equal rights for fathers campaign. Adopting extreme violence as your main tactic will only hurt your reputation, not enhance it.
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England
It's the animal rights protesters that are warped not the scientists. Stalking, threatening etc. is terrorism. We our forgetting that our purpose in life is survival of our race. Although we like to think otherwise, that is all we are worth. So if experimenting on other animals will help us survive, so be it.
Ed, Vancouver, Canada
I worked for a leading laboratory, Caring for the animals. It was my job to care, and I am fully trained in Vet nursing and animal Care. I took this job to ensure the welfare of the animals. I wasn't sure what to expect, but believe me, it wasn't "vivisection" as some people call it, and the animals I cared for were better than most people's pets, and I was dismayed by the total outdated propaganda spread locally by extremists. The pictures spread about were either very old, or in fact taken from post-mortems at the local Veterinary college where Vets trained! They had no idea of the truth, which was simply that all of the work carried out was purely genetic, and not at all as they described. Yet they made our lives a misery, by harassing us outside our place of work, even when I had my baby son in the car, abuse was yelled at me, and I had really foul pictures shoved up at the windows. If you do not know for sure the truth, you shouldn't believe everything you hear. How many of them use inhalers, have a genetic disease, have relatives with cancer? It's that simple. Without our research, you would all die. Perhaps that is for the good. Maybe then we can safely carry out research that is Vital.
What a joke. I would expect this in the US, but not the UK. Scientists that test on animals should be prosecuted, not protected. Absolutely no benefit comes from vivisection, and if any did, it would still be morally wrong. This is one more step in the wrong direction but not in the least surprising.
Christopher Ryan, Boulder, Colorado, USA
Many of the Scientists supporters fail to make mention of the many beneficial drugs we wouldn't have today if they had been tested on animals, many of the drugs cause defects in the animals but not in humans. I am ashamed and disgusted to read many of the views of many people on here that they believe it is a good thing to experiment and torture animals, yet surprisingly these same people are up in arms about testing on foetuses, genetic engineering of humans, but hey it's OK on animals, cause they don't count.
No and no! You hurt animals you take the consequences. So harassment from protesters upsets them a bit... what about the suffering and pain they cause? What comes around...
The people who support and carry out these barbaric experiments on animals deserve all the grief they get! Such people are totally corrupt, unprincipled and misguided. I hope that animal rights campaigners continue with their ethically correct principles, using any methods available! The ends justifies the means.
AH, Evesham, Worcs
As a medical student I can tell you something. Lab rats save more lives than 999. I'd like to see if they refuse treatment developed via animal research when it's their child lying there dying.
Gil Eliav, London, UK
The right to peaceful protest should not be denied to anyone. But on the other hand, anybody who harasses, intimidates or blatantly threatens somebody innocent is breaking the law and should be prosecuted as such. They may claim that the scientists are the real criminals but this is utter tosh, they are doing their job legally and under great pressure, in order to develop products and techniques that help society as a whole. The sooner SHAC and others like them stop putting false information to the public, the better.
SHAC has targeted the company I work for because our parent company has connections to Huntingdon Science. Their division, ALF, have made home visits, threatening employees' friends and family; some people have been followed home from work, to find out where they live. If this is not terrorism by causing people to live in fear I don't know what is. I personally would not like to take a drug that has not been tested, as the side effects would not be known. I would like to see the day that the people involved in SHAC need a drug to save their lives, possibly one that has been tested on animals to see how they feel then.
DH, Preston, UK
As a scientist I know that the UK has some of the strongest laws in the world to control precisely when and how it is necessary to use animals for experimentation. It was also my impression that intimidation, stalking, vandalism and assault were already crimes in this country so why these extremists can't be arrested under current legislation is beyond me. I think it's another case of this government wanting to be seen to be dealing with a problem rather than actually dealing with it.
What a pity the government is so slow in updating laws to protect animals! Yet again, big business wins over basic compassion. What right do we have to experiment on animals? Certainly not a God given one...
All these animal rights activists will do is to drive scientist to work in other countries where there are even less constraints on animal welfare. Let the scientists get on with their vital research in peace, but more importantly, in a controlled and regulated environment
I think the intimidation and scare tactics used by animal rights activists are despicable. These scientists are pushing back the boundaries of medical science and coming up with new treatments which are of great benefit to society. I for one am proud of these researchers and of the work that they do. By law they have to test any new drugs on animals. If animal protesters have a problem with this they should be lobbying the government to change the law, not attacking people for abiding by it. I believe that animal testing can be extremely beneficial to medical research but would welcome a public debate on the matter with all sides getting to put their views across.
Matt, Trowbridge, Wilts
Why should the abusers of animals be given protection, when the animals they abuse are given none. It just does not make moral sense.
Peaceful expression of views is fine. Physical attacks on those who hold a different view are not. The answer, however, as in many cases, is not new legislation - what is needed is effective enforcement of the rules that already exist. More legislation, with no effective enforcement is useless (other than for politicians, who can feel like they are doing something).
MBR, London, UK
The way extremists acted is an affront to our laws, to our democracy, to human rights, as well as to the cause of better animal welfare. The extremists should be exposed of the evil they are, and government action on this matter is essential.
Edwina TS, High Wycombe, UK
I am against testing on animals for cosmetic purposes. I am also against testing on animals for medical research only if there are other alternative methods available. It is our right to protest against things we believe causes harm to others. However I do not agree with protesters who use violence or intimidation to try and make a point as it only portrays protesters in a negative light. These protesters are only encouraging tighter laws which will soon mean any form of protest could be illegal.
Chantelle, Manchester, UK
I think the best thing is to enforce the existing legislation better. New laws won't make any difference if they're not put into action. If people in this country want the benefits that research can bring, such as new drugs and cures for disease, then they have to accept that animal research is necessary. The research in this country is incredibly strictly controlled. Scientists are doing nothing illegal and need to be protected from the illegal activities of others. The main reason labs are not more open about what they do is because nobody wants to stand up and be a target for animal rights extremists.
There is a world of difference between legitimate peaceful protest and the use of violence to enforce a viewpoint. Perhaps the question should be why it has taken over seven years for the government to reach this decision.
David Anderson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
New treatments and medicines have to be tested in some way before they are piloted by humans, and animal research is an unfortunate but necessary part of that. The issue is far more complicated and reaches beyond just that of 'cruelty'. Individuals need to be protected from protest and attack from the more extreme groups, and I would have thought the non-violent protest groups would have welcomed legislation that stops the attacks which also tar their work.
No. The law is in place to protect morals. Animal testing is immoral and the law has done nothing. The extremist animal rights campaigners would be off doing something much nicer if animals' rights were not being so extremely violated.
Jon Hutchison, Guildford
Yes, scientists and their families should be more protected. I have witnessed first hand some of the attacks these scientists have endured. Don't these activists realise that companies like HLS perform vital research that benefits millions of people. How many of those protesting against this kind of research have benefited from it?
Glenn J, UK
It's not a case of a just a few animals suffering to make our lives better. In the UK a test animal dies every 12 seconds. If animal testing is really vital for medical advances (and it's a very big if), then at least let's stop the testing used for cosmetics and hygiene products - how many more varieties of toothpaste, shampoo and soap do we really need? Violent extremists of all beliefs should be resisted, and this can be done effectively using existing laws. This latest legislation just looks like the government bowing to industry pressure rather than trying to make a genuine improvement.
The fact that protesters refer to heartless scientists shows the mentality of the animal rights movement. The people who work in the sector are not heartless or immoral and they deserve the full protection of the law. Sending letters threatening to kill pregnant women and throwing paint stripper at peoples cars and paint at their property deserves the full punishment of the law. If you are against animal experimentation win your argument through debate and dig into your pocket and fund alternative methods. Don't terrorise people who have made a moral decision that differs from your own narrow views.
Test new products on humans. That's who they are intended for in the first place!! We have no right to harm any other living creature on this planet.
If I object to what some scientists do to some animals in the name of research, I have the right to condemn such actions, to refuse to benefit or profit from the results of such research, and to peacefully protest against such research and those who carry it out. It is not, however, my right to injure the researchers or their families in any way at all. The campaigners who do that are lowering themselves to the level of those whom they profess to despise. And what would their reaction be if they were diagnosed with insulin dependent diabetes, or needed dialysis or a renal transplant? I have the feeling they would not refuse the benefits which animal research has provided in this case!
Elisabeth, Sydney Australia
It isn't just scientists that get targeted by these people. Employees working for my company (which is large and well-known) have been victimised. Some have experienced verbal harassment, vandalism and received parcels containing very unpleasant contents. This is all because of deliveries my company makes to one of the laboratories. I am totally against these tactics and these people should be prosecuted.
Liz, Portsmouth, England
I trust people fervently opposed to animal experimentation refuse medical treatment as matter of principle? They're nothing more than hypocrites if not.
At last... i don't mind them going on random marches but i cant stand the people who fire bomb scientists houses and work places. I'm still waiting for the day they "liberate" some animal with an infectious disease or that has been genetically modified
I think some of the tactics used by these animal rights campaigners are not only disgraceful but completely pointless. They must be well aware that pharmaceutical industry is forced by law to carry out testing on animals in order to get their drugs licensed. If these campaigners really want to stop animal testing they should complain to the government about the current laws rather than attacking law abiding citizens.
Matt King, Twickenham, UK
I imagine I am not alone in condemning the testing of cosmetics of animals. Testing of medicine is another thing entirely and should be carried out only when necessary. Not that this matters to any of these protesters who are (from my own experience) bored middle class kids who latch dogmatically on to a single issue in order to feel radical, cool, etc. They trot out this dogma rather than properly argue a point which all seem incapable of doing.
Human beings should treat every living creature with respect and punish the guilty who misuse law.
Behroz, Mumbai /India
How can we justify torturing primates, which experience the same emotions as humans, in the name of science? The human race is descended from primates, but now has decided to torture them for its own benefit. There is no debate, its is simply immoral and wrong.
Human life is worth more than animal life, period. Human CONVENIANCE is worth more than animal life, period. anyone who would stand in the way of medical and technological research, that has the potential to benefit mankind, on the behalf of critters deserved to be locked up for their lack of regard for their fellow man
Sandy, Edinburgh UK
Someone has to speak up for the millions of animals that die agonising deaths in the name of research. These poor creatures cannot speak up for themselves when they are locked away waiting to die.
Violent animal rights activists only harm their cause and polarise generally moderate & balanced public opinion. If animal testing has to be carried out at all, I would rather it were undertaken in the UK, where there is strict animal-welfare legislation, than exported to a country of convenience where animals can be abused unnecessarily (e.g. for cosmetics) yet legally. The change in legislation is necessary to protect scientists, and will return the debate on animal testing to the middle ground. A balanced debate is the only way to reduce animal testing in the long term.
Edward Turner, London
I do not agree with any form of animal testing. Let the scientists test it on themselves and see how they like it.
Have any of the animal rights volunteered to have the products tested on themselves or their children? EG: Shampoos put into their eyes and so on. The way that the extremists protest suggests that all of the scientists love harming animals, whereas I bet most of the scientists would gladly not test on animals wherever possible.
Brian , Edinburgh Scotland
I think it's disgusting that we use experiments on animals to make our lives better. Who are we to play go in hurting animals. Who are we to put diseases in animals, make them suffer? What goes around comes around.
It's about time this law was implemented. These people are not acting just out of passion for the welfare of these animals, but also out of their own lifestyle decision to not eat meat. They don't just hate Huntingdon Life Sciences, one of them called an acquaintance of mine a "fascist" for eating meat. There is a difference between a protest and an attack, and all these people are doing is making themselves look absolutely ridiculous where a proper respectable protest could persuade people to listen to their viewpoints.
Chris Ward, Guildford, Surrey
Animal studies should not be conducted "until their validity to clinical medicine has been assessed." Which bunny-hugging sentimentalist said this? Actually it's a quote from the conclusions of one of the very few peer-reviewed scientific papers on the efficacy of animal experiments and their application to human health (see bmj.bmjjournals.com). There's a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding in this debate. It's not a case of human vs. animal suffering. It's a case of millions of animals a year suffering terrible torture with no evidence that it has any benefit to humans whatsoever. Every time you hear a "scientist" expounding the benefits of animal experiments you should ask yourself whether this is a scientific statement backed up by evidence or a desperate plea to keep his job.
All these activities take place behind closed doors. Why not make the debate more open, and include a picture of some of the animals that gave their lives in the name of science on the packet. Only then can we see what is REALLY going on. In a hundred years time people will look back at what humans did to the creatures that they share the planet with, and be outraged that such atrocities could ever be allowed.
Torturing human and non-human animals for cosmetics is not acceptable. The government should make this activity illegal, then the activists can move on.
Malcolm, Wirral, UK
I am an animal rights campaigner, but a peaceful one. I cannot believe that harassment and violence does not get covered by another law though, in the eyes of the government. Animal research is outdated and barbaric and more money should be put into humane research methods.
Joanne Payne, Littlehampton
Animal testing is highly unpleasant, but, despite what activists say, there are NO alternatives. Computer simulations and tests on individual cells are no where NEAR appropriate or sufficient, if you want to know how the WHOLE animal is affected by a drug. Also, I'd just like to say that I am 100% sure that so-called animal rights campaigners have taken some sort of medication in their lifetimes (e.g. paracetamol, antihistamines) and would also not refuse life-saving treatment if they were dying.
Isla, Birmingham, UK
Torture can never be morally justified. Go and look at footage taken inside vivisection labs and then decide if it's still a good idea. The people who make money off vivisection enjoy the public misconception that animals need to be used to find cures for illnesses.
To make a suitable punishment for violent animal rights protestor they should be made to live for 2 or 3 months without any products which are animal based or tested on animals. Just watch how fast these people will start bleating once all of their comforts are taken away. Besides they seem to have no consideration for people who are suffering from diseases/disorders who might gain benefit from animal experiments.
Michael , Darlington, UK
There is a long tradition in the UK (and the rest of the free world) for change to be brought about by peaceful protest. Animal experimentation should not be brushed under the carpet, which I fear is the government's aim. Deal with violent protestor under current law, but don't try to silence people trying to do expose what is often indefensible practice. Or are we happy to regress to the 19th century?
Andy Westwood, Dudley, West Midlands
I can't believe we are still hearing people talk about testing of cosmetics. Cosmetic testing on animals is banned in the UK. We are talking about necessary testing of potentially life saving treatments. There are already sufficient laws in place to minimize the suffering of animals and to ensure that only necessary testing is carried out. These scientists, and especially their families, need protection.
Sven, Colne, UK
You might also recall Thalidomide. My father worked for Distillers at Speke near Liverpool in the 1950s where experiments were done on rabbits. Father left Distillers before they got involved in Thalidomide, but knew all the directors involved. At no time were experiments done on the animals to see if the drug passed the placental barrier (Sunday Times report "The story of Thalidomide"). Only after the tragedy began to unfold and Distillers became the target of lawsuits, were experiments done on these very rabbits. All the baby rabbits were born with malformed limbs. Had experiments been done prior to launch of the drug, thousands of children would not have had their lives ruined. The lives and health of humans is of more worth and importance than that of animals no matter how cute, furry and cuddly they may be.
S Forsyth, Edinburgh
25 years ago I was working as a Zoology Graduate on a project looking at rearing conditions for pigs. This work involved no harm whatsoever to the animals, and led directly to improvements in farming conditions. However, none of this stopped animal rights activists from pouring acid on my car, threatening me with violence, and making hoax calls with bomb threats to my place of work. I'm highly committed to the cause of animal welfare, but I'm afraid that my views about the minority of animal rights protesters who resort to violence and intimidation are unprintable! The government is entirely correct in taking whatever action is necessary.
Changing the law won't make any difference if people feel an injustice is being done. Just consider previous events in our history such as women's emancipation, abolition of slavery and apartheid. The excuse that these experiments are being done within the confines of law means nothing to many as the laws in place are an unsatisfactory legacy.
John Bailey, London
If we wish to have products that are safe to use, they must be tested on animals.
Bruce Stafford, Blackburn, UK
The government are just clamping down on legal protest they are not dealing with the attacks on vivisectors, which are already illegal. Preventing legal protest will just drive more people underground, and lead to an increase in direct action. This would all stop if there was a public enquiry into vivisection. The public should be able to see what goes on in these laboratories.
The UK pharmaceutical industry spin is that they spend huge amounts to look for alternatives - it's only £600,000 pa. They could do a lot more. It's just more spin that jobs are at risk. Legislation has never stopped protest.
Nigel Goodman, Macclesfield, UK
Whilst attacks on people cannot be justified, things would be better if the government actually listened to the animal rights protesters rather than totally ignoring their views. It's a joke that a member of the public can be imprisoned for badly treating animals yet the scientists escape such prosecution.
Paul, Northampton, UK
Most of the animal research is useless. I am in the medical field and most of the time research is just revisiting same issues. I am all for research including animal but under heavy regulation. This should also stop illegal trade of monkeys and poachers. Good stuff.
Perhaps the protestors should first look at what actually goes on in the centres. The protestors use photos that are extremely out of date, usually from places that have already been shut down. It is illegal to test on animals for cosmetics in the UK. The laws are there to protect the animals, and having worked in a medical research breeding unit, the animals are better looked after than any pets are! Control is strict when it comes to the animals, perhaps it should be for the violent, ignorant protestors.
There was once a time when I campaigned for animal rights, but I stopped when I could no longer identify with the madness going on around me. Some of the views already expressed indicate this. To suggest we should experiment on rapists and murderers instead of animals is utterly idiotic. What about those who are wrongly convicted? What about the human rights of prisoners? Why stop at rape and murder - some arbitrary line drawn around crimes considered moral and immoral?
Are the criminal actions of activists to be considered moral, even though they show complete disdain for the human rights of those on the receiving end? To argue that vivisectionists have forfeited their human rights by their violations of animal rights is to appoint oneself as judge, jury and even executioner on the basis of nothing more than hate.
There can never, and will never, be a sensible debate about animal rights while the antis continue to undermine their position by violating the human rights of others. All rights of all beings must be respected and upheld as something of fundamental importance. If not, then the whole concept of rights is meaningless.
Graeme Battison, UK
I have no time for animal rights nutters but on the other hand I feel that this proposed legislation sets a dangerous precedent. How long before the government starts special measures against people like Quakers who are heavily involved in the peace movement or local community activists trying to save local facilities from cuts etc. Hasty panicky legislation is bad legislation. There is far too much emphasis in this legislation on a police officers discretion which is a recipe for disaster for civil rights.
Marc H Turner, Dagenham, Essex
I don't see the protestors standing up against eradicators of household vermin. Surely rat poison and mouse traps should be also outlawed as they are just as cruel as the experiments?
Violent or intimidating activists should be treated in exactly the same way as the law deals with terrorists, for this is what they are. Consumers have the choice to boycott products which have harmed animals in their production. They may also avoid life-saving medication if they feel that their life is worth less than a rat's. Animal Rights campaigners should educate the public, not persecute producers, as they would not exist if the demand for the resulting product was not there!
Stuart, Surrey, England
Maybe if the activists stopped worrying about the fury little animals and took more time to stand up for issues such as cancer research and abused children then the world would be a much better place.
Making a specific law is stupid. If these people are already threatening, assaulting and causing criminal damage then they are already laws to cover this. If the law covers animal rights protesters then it won't cover protesters for plants or fish or any other minority lobbying group. This is totally unnecessary and a waste of tax payers' money.
Huw Evans, Ipswich, UK
The fact is this type of testing is outdates, unreliable and unethical. It's about time the government started putting money into more ethical testing, as we all know that it is available. Whilst I don't agree with scientists families suffering because of protesters, if you work in a controversial job, you have to take the fall out.
Sarah, UK : "...if you work in a controversial job, you have to take the fall out." So somebody who is trying to research medicine to benefit humanity should be subject to the abuse of ignorant extremists?
Surely those that take the law into their own hands on this issue are volunteering to be human guinea pigs for research. Simple solution.
Stuart, Cambridge, UK
Animal experiments are not illegal. Stopping people carrying out lawful activities is indefensible. I welcome these new laws which will stop a minority rabble from disrupting work important in the field of medical science. By banning these protests the Police can get on with the real task of catching criminals and stopping terrorists.
PK Van Der Byl, Salisbury, Wilts, UK
The line between acceptable protest and harassment is a fine one, and will be hard to judge. The government seems intent on silencing any criticism of the way animals are treated. It is yet another stage in chipping away at individual freedoms, another step on the way to the police state which I fear Britain is destined to become.
The philosophical argument reduces to whether or not you regard human life more important than other animal species. Either stance can be morally justified. What can't be justified is the use of violence by the animal activists - a tactic used when you are losing the debate!
Gaz, Guildford, UK
It's the animals that need protecting, not the heartless scientists that carry out barbaric experiments for more cosmetic companies to profit from. Don't tell me that the research is vital for human medical development, if that is the case, use all the low life murderers, rapists, child molesters etc to experiment on which will save us tax payers money.
Ben, Kintbury, Berks
I don't want animals to be tortured. However if their suffering will result in the betterment of human life so be it.
Tony Colquhoun, Millport
It seems hypocritical of these extremist protestors to use violence and intimidation. Surely they're as guilty as they view the scientists of causing distress?