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Animal rights versus commercial freedom

The fate of a small animal research company has prompted the UK Government to consider new legislation "to deal with animal rights extremists."

Robert Walgate

The UK's Home Secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday condemned the actions of "those who use violence and intimidation to disrupt the running of vital biotechnology businesses." And he confirmed a special payment of £1 million to Cambridgeshire Police to help with the additional costs of policing protests at Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), one of Britain's main commercial animal research centres. Employees are said to have been intimidated both at HLS and in their own homes. And protestors are also trying to undermine the financial position of the company, by lobbying financial institutions to withdraw loans to HLS.

The company has been attempting to extend the duration of bank loans to give time to complete a refinancing package and, according to news reports this week, these protests have placed the whole future of HLS in jeopardy. But asked by BioMed Central if HLS was under threat of closure, a spokeswoman said "absolutely...

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