Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 6 News List

UK scientists to speak in defense of animal research


Two leading academics at Oxford University have decided to face down threats of violence from animal rights extremists and speak publicly in favor of the building of a controversial US$31.5 million research laboratory in the city.

Although scientists are advised to remain silent for fear of attacks, Tipu Aziz, a neurosurgeon, and John Stein, a neurophysiologist say they believe it is time to stand up to the radicals who have attempted to stop the project.

"I think that it is important to speak out," said Aziz, whose research into Parkinson's disease involves the use of primates.

"The ALF [Animal Liberation Front] are actively now saying that anyone in Oxford is a target. They have had it all their own way for a long time. What we are seeing in Britain today is a minority dictating how the majority of this country live and that is as undemocratic a process as can be imagined. Animal research is absolutely essential to medical progress and a lot of research being done in Oxford is critical," he said.

Aziz and Stein will address a march today, the first rally in support of the lab's construction.

Extra police are being drafted into Oxford for the march because it clashes with another being run by Speak, a group opposed to building the new animal research facility.

Stein, who oversees research into Parkinson's and dyslexia, said he knew there were dangers involved in speaking at the march.

"You have to be really passionate about this to put your head above the parapet and not many do," he said. "Some of these people are loonies and do the most awful things. Let's be clear, we are all taking a risk, but I feel it is so important I am prepared to take that risk."

"I feel passionately that animal experiments have benefited mankind enormously, and almost all of the medical advances of the last 100 years have happened through animal experiments. People just don't seem to know this, it hasn't been got across," he said.

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