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Friday, 1 September, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Major condemns 'urban terrorists'
Burned-out car
Extremists targeted the cars of laboratory workers
Former prime minister John Major has condemned animal rights extremists who have targeted workers at a laboratory in his constituency.

Mr Major said campaigners who had intimidated or attacked staff at Huntingdon Life Sciences were "urban terrorists".

We need tighter controls on databases so the addresses of people doing this research are not readily available to activists

John Major
Five cars belonging to HLS staff were firebombed in the early hours of Monday morning. No-one was injured.

Mr Major said he would be discussing the issue with Home Secretary Jack Straw, who has already said he is considering new laws to give the police extra powers to deal with animal rights extremists.

Changes to law

Mr Major, who is stepping down as MP for Huntingdon at the next election, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the extremists were making the lives of some of his constituents a misery.

He said some HLS staff had suffered a "long-running campaign of harassment, intimidation... and car bombing. Although robust about it, because their work is important, they have been very frightened and concerned and I think we need some changes in the law to deal with it.

John Major
The former PM wants action
"We need tighter controls on databases so the addresses of people doing this research are not readily available to activists," he said.

"The people who are suffering are ordinary, everyday people like you and I, going about their entirely lawful business. As a result of their work, many people's lives are saved.

"It is intolerable they should have their lives made an absolute misery by animal rights activists. There are a significant number of people who really are very nasty people indeed," he said.

Following Monday's attacks, Mr Straw said he was looking at the police powers used to combat animal rights extremists and would make changes if necessary.

Animal right groups, however, said the current laws were more than adequate to deal with the extremists.

Last year the Home Office said police reported 1,200 incidents involving activists. These included six with explosive devices and eight arson attacks.

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See also:

30 Aug 00 | UK Politics
Animal rights extremists targeted
28 Aug 00 | UK
Arsonists target lab staff
13 Jun 00 | UK
Dying for a good cause?
24 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Labour row over animal tests
13 Jun 00 | Sci/Tech
Animal testing appeal sparks protest
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