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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 18:31 GMT
Animal rights protests: Your views
Animal rights activists outside Huntingdon Life Sciences plant at Occold, Suffolk, calling for the company, which tests drugs on animals, to be shut down
Animal rights activists could face five years in jail for targeting research centres under measures published by Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The bill would make it a criminal offence to cause "economic damage" through campaigns of intimidation and police will be able to arrest anyone protesting outside the homes of scientists.

Ms Hewitt said it will not affect people's "important right" to peaceful protest but Greg Avery, an anti-vivisection pressure group spokesman said: "The government is bringing in laws to protect people who murder animals."

What is your reaction to the new bill? Will it affect protests against vivisection? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Michelle, Suffolk, UK
Are we right to introduce new laws governing the activity of animal activists? Where does this leave us in terms of other "activists"?

It's the right of everybody in this country to freedom of speech, protesting comes under that, I'm all for peaceful protest, but when "activists" intimidate, threaten and cause harm be it psychological or physical it shows the other end of "protesting" spectrum, by all means clamp down on that element, and arrest them for what anybody else in the street would be, but the genuine protesters should be left alone.
Gavin Clarke, Portsmouth, England

As long as the police are just as keen to arrest fox hunters as they would 'animal rights' protestors, then all should be fine. It seems they have quite a job on - but not to worry - the new community officers can help.
G N, Salisbury, UK

I cannot believe this government. This law will lead to the final nail in the coffin for people being allowed to protest. Any protest is based on highlighting the protestors' grievance with a company/government, and is aimed at changing people's views or waking them from apathy.

This inevitably leads (with companies) to the whole point of the protest of persuading people not to use the companies products, this is clearly an attempt at economic damage and will now be cause for a jail term of five years. This is totalitarian, no buts, no doubts. This country is becoming less and less democratic, less and less free every day this government stays in power.
Chris, UK

Animal rights protesters are going about this entirely the wrong way. Their violent protest and victimization of people only serves to marginalise their cause and to lose public sympathy. If they want to stop vivisection they need to gain broad public support by highlighting the failings of the current system.
Ian, Bradford, UK

It's a terrible idea to make causing economic damage through campaigning for it to be made a criminal offence. On that basis the women who called for boycotts of slave produced sugar in the early 1800's would be regarded as criminals rather than heroines. By all means arrest people for actual damage to people or property but don't make educating people about injustice and allowing them to vote with their wallets a criminal offence-that's crazy!
Louise, Cambridge

The law should apply to all. It should not be drafted with a particular faction in mind. Who is to say which group the government will target next? The law must not be used to render all protest ineffective. In many countries you can be shot for speaking your mind. In the UK you are increasingly rendered powerless and then ignored. This is a form of bloodless totalitarianism which inevitably breeds frustration and violent protest.
N.J, Cambridge, UK

I am interested in Maggie, UK's proclamation that much vivisection is repetitive and unnecessary. This is another example of urban myths happily accepted by the animal rights groups when it suits their purposes despite having absolutely no basis. Animal experimentation is firstly not cheap and secondly is done as it is legally required for drugs to be released.
Barry Ferguson, UK

Bad law. We don't need to make up a new crime for intimidation, stalking, arson and blackmail. This is a band aid solution - populist and ineffectual. The term "economic damage" is particularly worrying as it potentially makes any peaceful protests illegal. It also includes not buying product X because of their ethical behaviour.
Jeffrey Lake, London, UK

Testing on animals is obligatory before you can test a drug in humans
Anna, Dublin, Ireland
I am working in the Pharmaceutical Sector for 8 years now, and I am tired having to defend my job as I work in Clinical Trials (in humans). I wish people would take the time to understand how strictly regulated drug development is in both animals and humans, and how testing on animals is obligatory before you can test a drug in humans. If these extremists are so against animal testing then I hope that they do not take medications/wear make-up etc. Both procedures and medications used to treat patients must be tested first in animals otherwise the trials cannot go ahead thus preventing a potentially life saving product being on the market!
Anna, Dublin, Ireland

Good. It's about time these protesters - who amazingly try to claim the moral high-ground while threatening and attacking people who are just doing their legal jobs - were shown some proper justice. I don't think anyone would support the hurting of animals for frivolous reasons such as cosmetics, but much of this research is in aid of cancer treatment and similar causes. Whatever, there is no justification for the activists' behaviour, and they should pay the price for their threats.
A. Hewlett, Cheshire, England

It all rather depends on what they are being locked-up for. Violence is one thing, but I have a horrible feeling that it'll all be about "intent". Someone else will decide whether there was any such "intent".
Steve, UK

People have a right to protest, however they do not have a right to threaten and interfere with other people going about their lawful business. This proposal sounds good to me.
Richard Read, London, UK

Surely it is already against the law to threaten people, abuse them, vandalise their homes and set fire to buildings?
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK
Surely it is already against the law to threaten people, abuse them, vandalise their homes and set fire to buildings? If the government needs to introduce new laws specifically to deal with animal rights protestors then are they saying that all of those criminal activities are currently legal if it just happens to be in the name of animal rights ?
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK

I'm a scientist who doesn't work with animals (for sound scientific reasons), yet have still received death threats from these people (presumably because they think all science is evil and all scientist are bunny-killers). Animal rights groups use terror tactics to achieve their goal because they can't accept not getting their own way through democratic means. A bomb is a bomb and a murder is a murder regardless of the ideology behind it.
P, Nottingham

Tricky one this. On one side, I see the activists point and too much animal experimentation is done just because it's cheap. These practices should be stopped in a humane society. On the other hand, there some such activists whose fanatical zeal is such that they've lost sight of their point - all life is worth respecting. This includes that of scientists and their families. As soon as they start trying to harm life of any type, the animal rights activists have lost the moral battle.
Paul Miller, Lancaster, UK

There is absolutely no difference between these people and terrorists as far as I am concerned. They have absolutely no regard for human life when they perform attacks on their targets - 5 years should be the minimum.
Martin, UK

Protests should be made to the government that makes these businesses legal, not intimidate lawful citizens
Chris, UK
The Animal Rights activists were insistent that the hunting ban be pushed through, as it is cruel to animals. Cruelty to people must be punished too, and their protests and threats of violence cause suffering to a lot of people. If the rights activists are at all interested in being fair, rather than their own way at all costs, they must accept this law. Protests should be made to the government that makes these businesses legal, not intimidate lawful citizens.
Chris, UK

I think this is a good move. Many animal rights activists not only target research centres but the people who work their, their homes and families. I have nothing against peaceful protests outside research centres, but the people who work there have the right to feel safe and not intimidated just because they don't share a point of view.
Chantil, Hoddesdon, Herts

I work in the Pharmaceutical sector, and grow weary of the challenging and threatening behaviour that activists are renowned for. It is short-sighted and hypocritical, since the same people will be the first in line at the pharmacy, should they fall ill and need treatment.
Anon, England

Huntingdon's (amongst others) does crucial work which has to be done on animals when passing particular drugs before allowing testing on humans. What they do is not pretty, but it is vital. Whether you approve of what they or not they do not deserve to be hounded, harassed and physically attacked, either themselves or their families.
Alex, Aylesbury, UK

It's all very well to rationalise the exploitation of animals by referring to cancer treatment. But we all know that much vivisection is repetitive and unnecessary. A review of its use is very long overdue.
Maggie, London, UK

The laws already exist to protect the potential victims of this form of terrorisms
Russ, France
The laws already exist to protect the potential victims of this form of terrorism, they must be applied before creating any new ones. People defend their rights, since when did animals have rights? Many of the people protesting violently against the lack of respect for animals would not be alive today if it hadn't been for the medical research carried out over the centuries on animals.
Russ, France

Animal rights protestors consistently attack the wrong targets. The scientists are not to blame - they are just doing their job. Pharmaceutical and cosmetic products are always tested on animals prior to release onto the market -it's is the law . If you don't like it (and I don't) then protest to the government - they can make or break legislation, scientists can't. Some retailers might say that they don't test their products on animals, but that's only technically true. They don't do it, but someone else has to, otherwise their products cannot go on sale.
Lloyd Evans, Brighton, UK

Animal Rights protestors seem to be able to intimidate and harass law abiding citizens without any fear of legal action. If they want to change the law, lobby the politicians and law makers, but don't bully those who have different values. That is the way of the dictator, not the democrat.
Pete, Shropshire


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