May 26, 2006

Oxford University wins animal rights injunction

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Oxford University won a legal
battle on Friday to increase the restrictions placed on animal
rights activists who regularly demonstrate against its new
research laboratory.

The university went to the High Court last week to extend
an exclusion zone round the 20-million-pound ($37 million)
biomedical center to keep demonstrators away.

Some animal rights extremists, opposed to vivisection, have
widened the protest by threatening violence against anyone
involved with the university.

On Friday, a judge increased the exclusion zone and handed
down new rulings on the amount of noise protesters can make.

"We all have the right to work and study in a safe and
peaceful environment, free from threat, intimidation and
disruption," the university's registrar Julie Maxton told
reporters after the hearing. "That right is what the court has
acknowledged today.

"We fully recognize the right of individuals and groups to
express their views within the framework of the law. The
judgment protects that right by making it clear that it cannot
be used as a cloak for unlawful activity and behavior."

Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research
Council, said the legal move had been designed to curb a
"pattern of weekly disruption and loud noise by relatively
large groups of people."

"What the university is seeking to stop here is the growth
of a mood of violence and aggressive protest against the
university and everyone associated with the university," he
told BBC radio before the ruling.

Construction of the laboratory was suspended in July 2004
for 16 months when the building contractor pulled out in the
face of a persistent campaign by animal rights group SPEAK.

Building work resumed late last year after the university
obtained a limited injunction on protests near the laboratory,
but demonstrations against the center have continued elsewhere
in the city of Oxford.

Poorva Joshipura, the director of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that despite the ruling, she
was confident they would one day see the center closed.

"These attempts to silence legitimate and peaceful protests
do absolutely nothing to get to the root of the issue which is
unacceptable cruelty to animals in the laboratory and the real
need to move away from old fashioned animal tests," she told

"These attempts will only strengthen the resolve of the
caring people out there who are protesting. We're going to be
able to close that laboratory down."

(Additional reporting by Ross Weingarten)