November 30, 2005

Work restarts on UK animal test site after protests

By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - Building work restarted on Wednesday on
Oxford University's 20 million pound animal testing centre
after a 16 month hiatus caused by animal rights protests.

Work was suspended in July 2004 when building contractor
Montpellier Group pulled out in the face of a persistent
campaign by animal rights group SPEAK Campaigns.

On Wednesday, the university refused to name the new
contractor, the expected new completion date or give any
details of the beefed-up security arrangements.

"The contractors are being kept secret ... and we have had
the police very closely involved," the university's registrar
David Holmes told reporters. "I am afraid I can't comment on
anything about the security arrangements or costs."

But SPEAK spokesman Robert Cogswell vowed the campaign
would continue.

"More than ever we will be fighting the university and the
building contractor every step of the way," he told Reuters.

"We expect building to continue for the next eight months
or so and with our contacts in the industry I do not believe
they can keep the name of the contractor secret for that long,"
he added.

He said the two lorries that entered the site on Wednesday
bore no name markings.

The university obtained an injunction a year ago limiting
protests to one afternoon a week and not within 100 metres
(yards) of the site.

SPEAK, which says it will abide by the law, believes it is
immoral to conduct medical experiments on animals in the 21st
century and maintains that the new facility is an extension of
existing animal laboratories.

But Holmes insisted that the new laboratory, the first
phase of which should have been opened by this time last year,
was an updating and replacement for and not an extension of
several current facilities scattered around the university.

"Completing the project will be good for animal welfare,
good for medical research and good for the treatment of
life-threatening conditions the world over," he told a news

He said the university used very few primates in its
experiments, concentrating mainly on rodents and goldfish.

News of the restart of building work was welcomed by Philip
Wright of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical

"This is excellent news for anyone in Britain who either
has a disease or is connected with someone who has," he said.