EIGHT YEARS OF TERROR: Animal Rights Activists Condemned as Guinea Pig Farm Gives Up Fight

By Jonathan Brown and Robert Dex | The Independent (London, England), August 24, 2005 | Go to article overview
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EIGHT YEARS OF TERROR: Animal Rights Activists Condemned as Guinea Pig Farm Gives Up Fight


Jonathan Brown and Robert Dex, The Independent (London, England)


Scientists have furiously condemned the animal rights movement after the closure of a controversial guinea pig farm which it was claimed would seriously hamper medical research in Britain.

The owners of the Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, finally caved into pressure after a bitter and often illegal six- year battle with activists which culminated in the unsolved theft of the remains of the owner's late mother-in-law.

Hundreds of people were terrorised by the protesters. Threats had been made against anyone who was associated with the family who own the farm, who were themselves the subject of paedophilia smears.

In what was described as a 'guerrilla terrorist campaign' hundreds of properties were damaged in the local village, mainly in night attacks, and electricity supplies were cut.

The closure is a blow to the police, the scientific community and the Government, which have fought tooth and nail to keep the operation running.

This is the latest in a series of defeats for scientific researchers, which includes the closure of a cat breeding farm, a kennels and, most damaging, the decision last year to scrap a primate research centre at Cambridge University because of escalating security costs.

Animal rights activists were celebrating what they claimed was a famous victory and said it would inspire supporters to redouble their efforts against other targets, such as Huntingdon Life Sciences and Oxford University.

A spokesman for Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, the organisation that organised the peaceful protests outside the farm, said: 'This is the most fantastic day of my life. It's a victory for the animals and it's a fundamental victory for the animal rights movement. I feel so unbelievably proud to be part of the movement ... Such charming and sentient animals should not be incarcerated within windowless sheds.'

The decision to close the farm was made public in an anonymous statement by a family member. Another unnamed relative simultaneously appealed for the return of the remains of Gladys Hammond, who died aged 82. Her body was stolen from her grave in October last year. The relative said the decision to close the guinea pig farm had removed the need for the animal rights activists to keep her remains.

The statement, made on behalf of the owners, David Hall and Partners, said the breeding centre would undergo a phased closure to ensure the welfare of animals. The Halls plan to return to full- time traditional farming next year. 'They have no plans to be involved in any way in the breeding of animals for medical or scientific research,' the statement concluded.

The Government said the move was a family decision and it was understood that an alternative supply of animals had already been established.

The closure comes just a month after tough new laws came into force designed to stop 'economic sabotage' against research bodies and their suppliers. The offence is punishable by five years in jail.

A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry said: 'The Government is determined to tackle extremists who harass or threaten those involved in vital, life-saving scientific research and is committed to a policy of reducing, refining and replacing the use of animals in research.

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