- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) — Thirty-two persons were being questioned yesterday in raids across England, Belgium and the Netherlands targeting animal rights extremism, police said.

Hampshire police in southern England, who are coordinating the operation, said about 700 officers and other staff were involved in the raids at 32 addresses: 29 in Britain, one in Belgium and two in the Netherlands.

The force said that it was one of the largest operations of its kind in Britain and that $200,000 in cash was seized along with mobile phones and computer equipment.

Those detained were to be questioned at police stations across Britain. They are suspected of burglary, conspiracy to blackmail and offenses against animal-research centers.

One of the centers was identified as Huntingdon Life Sciences, in Cambridgeshire, eastern England, which tests medicines and vaccines on animals and has long been the focus of animal rights activists.

Companies and people associated with the facility, including shareholders of British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, also have been targeted.

“It is a very large operation, one of the largest, if not the largest, police operation that has targeted animal extremism in the UK,” said Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard.

“In recent years, animal rights extremists have conducted sustained campaigns of harassment and intimidation against the animal research industry, seeking to achieve their objectives by creating a climate of fear,” he said.

“Although the vast majority of animal rights protesters campaign lawfully, a small minority seeks to force change through criminal action.”

In Belgium, a prosecution spokesman confirmed that a raid had been carried out in the region of Gent in the west of the country, but said no arrests had been made.

Last year, British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed “robust” action against anyone targeting companies that use animals for medical research after a spate of increasingly radical action by anti-vivisectionists.

Contractors at a new biomedical research center in Oxford, southern England, also have faced threats, forcing work to stop.

The owners of a farm that bred guinea pigs for medical testing endured a six-year harassment campaign. That harassment culminated three years ago when the body of one of the owners’ relatives was stolen from a graveyard.

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