32 held as police target animal extremists

A TOTAL of 32 people were last night being questioned by detectives following a massive series of raids targeting animal rights extremists across the UK and Europe.

Police have also seized 100,000, in cash, mobile telephones, computer equipment and documents during the operation, which involved 700 officers and has been described as the largest of its kind.

Financial investigators from the City of London Police economic crime unit are assisting in relation to the quantities of cash recovered.

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The raids were the culmination of a two-year investigation into an alleged conspiracy of extremism targeting a variety of organisations and individuals, including Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, police said.

Officers executed warrants to enter and search premises in Glasgow, Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Greater London, Merseyside, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Northumbria, Yorkshire, South Wales, Belgium and the Netherlands.

A Hampshire Police spokeswoman said: "Police search teams have recovered many items that are of interest to the investigation. Hi-tech crime specialists are examining the computer equipment and mobile telephones. Searches may last for several days."

Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard, of Kent Police, said: "It is one of the largest, if not the largest police operation that has targeted animal extremism in the UK."

He said police were targeting both individual crimes and an alleged conspiracy to commit acts of extremism against animal research groups and individuals.

He added: "In recent years, animal rights extremists have conducted sustained campaigns of harassment and intimidation against the animal research industry, seeking to achieve their objectives by creating a climate of fear.

"Although the vast majority of animal rights protesters campaign lawfully, a small minority seeks to force change through criminal action.

"To some animal rights extremists, any organisations and individuals who have links to the animal research industry are justifiable targets, however tenuous those links might be.

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"The victims are not only companies or universities. It is employees, along with their families, their friends and neighbours, who often are targeted in their own homes. The impact of these personalised campaigns on individuals is deeply distressing and often involves criminal activity."

Mr Leppard said the alleged offences included burglary and conspiracy to blackmail.

The police chief added: "While animal rights extremism affects the whole of the United Kingdom, there are a greater proportion of incidents in the south-east."

A spokesman for Huntingdon Life Sciences said: "It is great to see the results of police investigations from over the past two years beginning to control the activities of animal rights extremists in the UK."