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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
'I no longer count death threats'
Most animal rights protests remain peaceful and lawful
Most animal rights protests are peaceful and lawful
Doctor Mark Matfield says he set up the Victims of Animal Rights Extremism support group after suffering 12 years of harassment and intimidation.

Three months later, it has 200 members, who are reporting a growing range of tactics against them, including being accused of paedophilia in leaflets sent to their neighbours.

They say they have protesters in balaclavas outside their homes, paint thrown over their cars and countless death threats.

"I gave up counting the death threats many, many years ago," Dr Matfield said.

"There are just too many of them to even worry about," he told BBC News Online.

Dr Matfield is executive director of the Research Defence Society, which represents scientists involved in animal research.

If they are targeting me to try to shut me up, that is last thing I am going to do!
Research Defence Society executive director Dr Mark Matfield

"As a spokesman for the scientific community, about animal research, I get a lot of targeting," he told BBC News.

"I have had a letter bomb sent to my office, my car smashed up a couple of times, windows broken, car tyres slashed, paint poured over it, and I have had protests - sometimes quite violent ones - at my office and home.

"A few years ago it used to be about big protests outside the particular laboratory they were targeting, now it has changed.

"They are going for people in their homes at night, putting an incendiary device in their car right outside their house - terrorism on people's doorsteps."

"The level of extremist protest has been growing steadily for five or six years," Dr Matfield added.

"But very recently they had a victory at the University of Cambridge, which seems to have reinvigorated the most radical elements in the movement."

Psychological terror

The university abandoned its plans to set up a laboratory because of escalating security costs.

Dr Matfield told BBC News Online he was unable to discuss the "personal security" measures he takes on a daily basis - but he did say he receives police protection.

"Special Branch are very good at helping people deal with protestors at their homes and things like that," he added.

But what the authorities are less good at is dealing with is what Dr Matfield calls "psychological terror".

Credit blacklist

He told BBC News Online he still received up to 40 nuisance telephone calls every day and was constantly having to return unwanted goods that had been ordered in his name.

"Tool kits, TV sets, watches, sports equipment - all of which you have to return, explain you have not ordered them, and ask the mail-order company not to put you on a credit blacklist.

"It is virtually impossible to do anything about it, unless you tell the post office not to deliver any of your mail."

Dr Matfield said plans for a crackdown on animal rights campaigners who use terror tactics, unveiled by the Home Office on Friday, were a "good start".

Medical research

But Victims of Animal Rights Extremism is calling for the groups organising campaigns of harassment and intimidation to be proscribed under the Terrorist Act 2000.

"These are serious organised campaigns of psychological terrorism and should be treated as such," Dr Matfield told BBC News.

But in the meantime, he would continue to defy them.

"If they are targeting me to try to shut me up, that is last thing I am going to do!"

"You cannot give in to terrorists - it is absolutely crucial there is someone willing to stand up in public and say, 'This is why we do experiments on animals - for medical research, and this is how we look after the animals, these are the high standards we work to'."




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