The UK home secretary, Jack Straw, is to consider changing the law to give police more powers to prevent organised intimidation campaigns. His promise follows recent firebomb attacks on cars belonging to employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a UK contract research firm that uses animals in safety tests for new medicines and agricultural chemicals.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks against the HLS staff, it is assumed they are the work of animal rights activists, reports last week's Nature. Cambridgeshire police, which has a team of 40 officers investigating extremist animal rights groups in the area, claims that arrests have been prevented by loopholes in the current laws governing harassment.
Princess Anne, current president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, last week defended the use of animal experiments in scientific research. Speaking at the Association's annual science festival, the Princess Royal said that animal experiments would always be necessary if scientists were to be sure their discoveries were safe for medical use. She suggested that controversy over vivisection was an example of the way in which public scepticism and distrust of science had developed without hearing full arguments for the direction of research.
Princess Anne also called for an 'open mind' on genetically modified (GM) foods and therapeutic cloning. GM crops had great potential, and therapeutic human cloning would hold great attractions to those who might one day be cured of disease as a result, she said.
Sources and References
Britain may boost protection of researchers from intimidation
Firebomb terror of animal research scientist
Princess backs experiments on animals
Princess calls for open mind on GM