CAMPAIGNERS ACCUSED Tony Blair yesterday of intensifying animal rights protests by failing to keep his promises to clamp down on cruelty in laboratories.
As the Government prepares to introduce powers to stop extremists harassing scientists, animal welfare groups said protests would continue unless the Government addressed concern about animal testing.
Animal welfare organisations claimed that ministers had reneged on a promise to support a Royal Commission on animal testing and to introduce an independent watchdog to inspect laboratories.
Tomorrow the Government will extend anti-stalking laws to give further protection against animal rights extremism. Ben Hayes, the director of public relations for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said that between April and June 2004 there were 27 reported incidents of damage to personal property, two instances of damage to public property, 20 cases of damage to companies and four hoax fire bomb packages.
Mr Hayes said: "A lot of the damage can't be quantified as it often involves company phone systems and websites being blocked. And we are not just talking about the targeting of company directors or research directors but of secretaries and other office workers."
He said that vital research into cancer, Aids and asthma was being jeopardised by extremist activity.
But animal welfare groups claimed that introducing new laws would do nothing to diffuse strong feelings in the country about testing on animals. The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, which opposes unlawful protest, said it had seen a leap in membership and inquiries over recent weeks.
"You don't have to endorse the tactics of certain campaigners to understand that what drives them is complete disillusionment with this Government. In the 1997 election Labour bandied around a New Labour New Life for Animals document which promised to do more to protect lab animals. But they have done nothing," said Wendy Higgins, the campaigns director.
The BUAV and anti-animal testing group Uncaged accused the Prime Minister of breaking a promise made four years ago in Parliament to introduce an independent element into the investigation process.
In November 2000 Mike O'Brien, the Home Office minister responsible for animal testing, told the House of Commons he would set up an "independent scrutiny team" which would oversee Home Office investigations and report directly to the Home Secretary.
Yesterday the Home Office said it did not want to stop animal welfare campaigners engaging in peaceful protest but was determined to crack down on the extremist animal rights militants who harass and use violence against scientists.
Victims are unwilling to identify themselves but some are willing to describe the intimidation as long as their name is not revealed. John, 47, a company director of a small chemical firm mistakenly linked by animals rights activists to Huntingdon Life Science, first received threatening and obscene e-mails at his office. Then his family received death threats.
"They would say that our lives would become misery and that they would not be happy until they saw our faces smashed in our coffins," he said.
The threats escalated after the ALF wrote to tell him he had become a priority target, after which a campaign of terror began including cars driving past his house playing loud car horns and sirens.
Fireworks were let off over his house, two of his cars were sprayed with obscene graffiti and bottles of paint were thrown on his driveway. Up to 300 letters were sent to neighbours falsely claiming he was a …