Page last updated at 08:46 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Lab protesters vow to 'fight on'

Research centre
The laboratory took five years to build

Animal rights campaigners have said they will continue to protest against an animal research centre in Oxford.

Oxford University's controversial bio-medical research centre officially opened on Tuesday.

It took five years to build amid tight security and has been the target of frequent demonstrations by animal rights campaigners.

The university has said the laboratory will carry out essential work which would greatly benefit medical research.

The animal rights campaigners are limited by a temporary High Court injunction won by Oxford University to protect its staff, students and contractors from potential intimidation, harassment, and violence.

Campaigners are banned from an exclusion zone around the new research centre, except on Thursday afternoons and then they must stay within an area marked by a plastic fence.

A High Court hearing will take place later next year to decide whether to make the injunction permanent.

The new building will help us deliver on our commitment to animal care
Professor Alastair Buchan

Amanda Richards from the campaign group Speak said it should not have been opened.

"What happens to these animals inside these research centres is that they spend their entire lives imprisoned in cages and they will all be killed," she said.

"None of them come out of these labs alive and a lot of them will suffer before they die."

Professor Alastair Buchan, head of Oxford's medical sciences division, said some animal use was still essential for medical progress.

"The new building will help us deliver on our commitment to animal care while pursuing life-saving medical advances," Mr Buchan said.

The four-storey building will bring together animal research currently conducted at around half a dozen facilities in the city.

Macaque research

Construction began five years ago but building work halted for more than a year when the contractors pulled out, citing intimidation from animal rights groups.

The first animals to move in were mice.

Rodents will make up 98% of the inhabitants, but eventually there will also be zebrafish, tadpoles, frogs and small numbers of guinea pigs, gerbils and hamsters.

There will be no cats, dogs or farm animals, but there will be macaque monkeys.

An entire floor of the new building is given over to macaque research and about 100 monkeys will be housed there.

There are several monkey holding rooms, each with a large u-shaped cage which is subdivided into five play and five living areas.

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