Release of leading extremists may inspire new attacks on animal research
Leading animal rights extremists Greg and Natasha Avery were released from prison this week. They were sentenced in January 2009 to nine years for conspiracy to blackmail in connection with the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) campaign. The tactics of this vicious campaign included firebombing cars outside workers' homes, physical assaults, criminal damage, personal threats and harassment.
The Averys have been released under strict conditions, including lifetime ASBOs, so are unlikely to participate in any overt animal rights campaigning, but rather 'direct and inspire'. The release coincides with a protest this weekend (5 November) to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of the extremists' favourite martyr Barry Horne, increasing researchers' anxiety.
Biomedical research involving animals has been key to important medical benefits such as vaccines and antibiotics to prevent and treat infections, anaesthetics used in all forms of surgery, and medicines to overcome serious conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure.
While this humane research is free from the extreme intimidation and harassment that were rife 7-10 years ago, there is still concern about the recent increase in 'legal' protests. Some of these border on the illegal, with the result that civil injunctions have been put in place and criminal cases are pending.
David Pruce, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research, said:
'Scientists are now able to work largely without threats and intimidation thanks to stronger laws put in place by the UK government five years ago. However, there is concern that protests are on the increase and we urge the authorities to be vigilant to stop illegal extremist activity rising once again.'
Commenting on current government consultations on the legislation governing animal research, David added that the public should be reassured that animal research is conducted under strict regulation and animal welfare will continue to properly safeguarded under new European legislation to be implemented in the UK in a year’s time:
'We see the implementation as an opportunity to enhance high animal welfare standards while also promoting a strong bioscience research environment. Scientists also wish to see a continued emphasis on further replacement, refinement and reduction of animals in research (3Rs), while encouraging high quality bioscience. We believe that such principles will lead to valuable research innovations and real benefits for both people and animals.'