Increasing numbers of suppliers are being forced to stop providing their services to those engaged in animal research, figures released by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) today show.
The last quarter of 2004 showed a total of 42 such "capitulations" - 37 per cent of the year's total. It compares with 22, 23 and 26 per cent respectively in the previous three quarters of the year. Comparable figures for 2003 are not available.
At the same time, the ABPI figures show major increases in the number of abusive or threatening phone calls made to companies engaging in animal research, and a continuing jump in recorded damage to company, personal and public property.
"It is very disturbing that, despite the increase in police activity in the past six months of last year, these statistics show that it is not enough in itself. It is essential that the Government and Parliament implement amendments in the Serious Organised Crime Bill aimed at animal extremists, and introduce a new clause protecting regulated companies," said Dr Philip Wright, ABPI Director of Science and Technology.
"The fact that more and more suppliers are being forced to drop their business with companies involved in animals research is especially ominous. If this trend continues, it is by no means fanciful to suggest that pharmaceutical companies will seriously consider whether it is still appropriate to carry out this essential research work in the UK.
"That would be a tragedy for the men, women and children of Britain as well as its economy - and, ironically, for the animals themselves, because the UK has the world's most stringent regulations on the animal welfare."
The figures released by the ABPI show that the total number of threatening and abusive phone calls and other communications amounted to 108 during 2004, compared with 38 in 2003 and 23 the previous year. There were 177 instances of damage to company, personal and private property during the year, compared with 146 the previous year and 60 the year before.
While the overall picture is thus bleak, the number of visits to the homes of both directors of companies and their employees showed a fall. Visits to directors' homes were down to 90 for the year, compared with 113 in 2003. But there were only 11 instances in the last quarter of the year - half or less than in any of the previous quarters. Home visits to employees were also down from 146 in 2003 to 89 last year.
"New legislation and injunctions have had a marked effect in reducing the number of these 'home visits' - which often take place in the middle of the night, accompanied by fireworks or loud-hailers - but the number is still unacceptably high," said Dr Wright.
"The people being targeted are working for tightly regulated companies that produce life-saving medicines, and they are entitled to carry out this essential work free from fear and intimidation."
For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410