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Animal rights war costs us pounds 12m.

Byline: Sarah Probert

Nearly pounds 500,000 of tax-payers' money has been spent tackling animal rights extremists who have set off bombs and disrupted power supplies as part of a reign of terror against a Midland family business.

Activists have waged a four-year campaign against Darley Oaks Farm, in Newchurch, Stafordshire, which supplies guinea pigs to the controversial Huntingdon Life Sciences complex in Cambridgeshire.

The number of protesters arrested has doubled in the past year.

Now one campaigner is to be served with an Anti Social Behaviour Order to prevent him or her returning to the site - the first animal welfare protester in the country to receive an Asbo.

The protester is due to appear in court on Friday - the day before a national demonstration, expected to attract up to 300 people, takes place in Lichfield.

Staffordshire Police has received more than pounds 450,000 from the Home Office over the last three years to deal specifically with the animal rights' protests.

It is one of only two police forces - the other is Cambridgeshire - to have received dedicated grants for such a purpose. Some of the offences committed by the extremists in the past year include:

Cutting off electricity supplies in the Staffordshire area on at least four occasions.

Digging up swathes of Branston Golf Course, causing pounds 10,000 worth of damage because one of the Hall family was a member of the golf club.

Several explosions at the farm as a result of home-made bombs.

Repeated attacks on a fuel company based in Burntwood because it supplies fuel to the farm.

Descending on the offices of a Birmingham solicitors' firm for representing the farm. Insp David Bird, the head of the environmental protest unit at Staffordshire

Police, said: 'It is actually very serious. There have been four explosions at the farm in the past 12 months. They were home-made explosive devices - fairly basic - but capable of injuring someone.'

Police have arrested 40 people in connection with the criminal activities in the past 12 months - about twice as many as in the previous year.

'There is an awful lot of crime done in the name of this campaign particularly for residents of Newchurch village such as graffiti on roads, on road signs, damage to cars of employees of the farm,' said Insp Bird.

'The groups align themselves to the Animal Liberation Front but as a group itself it doesn't actually exist. It is just a banner for groups like Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, etc,' he said.

Insp Bird said the Hall family, which runs the farm, felt they were victims of intimidation.

'They feel, as most people would, that they are operating a legitimate, lawful business.

'They feel very much that their human rights are being neglected at a cost when the rights of protesters are being upheld and they are very upset,' he said.

Amanda Richards, spokeswoman for Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, said: 'We organise protests so people can come along and show their disgust for what is going on at the farm.

'Obviously some people feel very impatient that animals are still suffering and so take matters further and into their own hands. As a group we are totally against any violence.'

The Hall family declined to comment.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 3, 2003
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