Campaigners to march in support of animal testing
Sara Gaines Society Guardian, Monday February 4 2008
A demonstration by supporters of animal testing may reignite the bitter row over the use of animals in medical research.
The pressure group Pro-Test is to march through Oxford at noon on Saturday, marking the first year of its campaign to counter intimidation of scientists who experiment on animals.
The group was set up after violent protests by animal rights extremists, notably against Oxford University and Huntingdon Life Sciences.
Its teenage founder, Laurie Pycroft, said the march aimed to defend the right of researchers to work without harassment; celebrate successes in developing treatments for disease; and improve understanding of the need for animal research.
It has lined up speakers including Peter Hollins, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, and local Lib Dem MP Evan Harris.
"Students, scientists and the public at large will not be cowed by animal rights extremists," Pycroft said.
The demonstration comes at a crucial juncture as MEPs have backed a plan to establish a timetable for replacing primates in scientific research.
It is not yet clear if they would also support an outright ban but any such move would likely be blocked by the European Commission and Council.
Calls to halt animal experiments have also been made by charities. The RSPCA wants animal experiments replaced with humane alternatives. Until that can happen it campaigns for measures to reduce the numbers of animals used, minimise suffering, and improve welfare.
However a Mori poll for the Coalition for Medical Progress in 2005 found 75% of the British population accepted animal experimentation for medical purposes.
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