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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 July, 2004, 13:22 GMT 14:22 UK
Animal activists 'damage economy'
Jean-Pierre Garnier
Mr Garnier said firms had not set up in the UK because of security fears
The security threat posed by animal rights campaigners is damaging the UK economy, the head of Europe's largest pharmaceutical firm has claimed.

GlaxoSmithKline's Jean-Pierre Garnier told the Daily Telegraph his firm spent millions of pounds protecting staff.

Mr Garnier said he knew of companies which had not established UK research facilities because of safety fears.

But animal rights campaigners say drugs researchers are trying to misrepresent peaceful activists as terrorists.

In his interview with the Telegraph, Mr Garnier said money being spent on securing research facilities from militants could be spent on research and development of new drugs.

He said: "Britain has to do more with its police and the judicial system because we are being terrorised.

It's a concerted campaign by animal researchers to perpetuate the image of animal rights campaigners as terrorists
Wendy Higgins
Buav

"I work hard to bring in investment to the United Kingdom and have talked many times to friends who are in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology businesses about moving here.

"But there is one issue that exists only in the UK and nowhere else has a comparative effect from extreme actions by animal rights activists," he said.

'Misinterpretation'

But Wendy Higgins, the campaign director at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), dismissed Mr Garnier's comments are being part of a campaign to portray all animal rights activists as "violent thugs".

Mouse in cardboard tube, BBC
APBI said new medicines had to be tested on animals by law

She said: "It's a concerted campaign by animal researchers to perpetuate the image of animal rights campaigners as terrorists.

"They know the majority of campaigners are peaceful and lawful."

Ms Higgins told BBC News Online local citizens, the elderly, students and school children all took part in peaceful protests.

"You really won't see what you expect to see - a line of people dressed-up in balaclavas with placards," she said.

She said animal researchers were also deliberately misinterpreting the anti-vivisection message.

"Those who oppose animal research do so fundamentally because they believe animal experiments are morally unjustified but also scientifically flawed.

"Anti-vivisectionists are not opposed to medical research. But there is increasingly evidence to show animal research is holding back science," she said.

Future research

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) agreed with Mr Garnier that Britain's pharmaceutical industry was being put at risk by animal rights extremists.

A spokesman said: "British research has resulted in a quarter of the top 100 medicines being discovered in the UK and there is a risk that this great knowledge and expertise will move elsewhere, or even be lost."

But he said it was unlikely activists would force projects already under way to be halted.

He said animal research formed just a small part of pharmaceutical companies' business, with drug development taking about a decade and animal testing occurring in the very last stages.

"Researching a new medicine is a 10-year commitment. What we are concerned about is where they choose to site this research in the future," he said.

The spokesman said security would be a factor in companies' decision making and the situation was a lot worse in the UK than elsewhere, with between 30m and 70m being spent on keeping staff and property safe each year.

ABPI has been lobbying for a single piece of targeted legislation to deal with the issue which would stop illegal behaviour without, it claims, impinging on people's freedom of speech and right to demonstrate.

"No new medicine is able to be licensed in the UK unless it has been tested on animals," he said.




SEE ALSO:
MP condemns animal 'terrorists'
27 Jul 04 |  Norfolk
Eight animal activists prosecuted
15 Jul 04 |  Cambridgeshire


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