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Protection for Venray mayor after threats from ARAs

Police protection for Venray mayor and alderman after threats from animal rights activists
by Dave McGuire and Louise Dunne


The mayor and an alderman in the southern Dutch town of Venray have been placed under police protection, after threats of violence by animal rights activists.

Dutch Interior Minister Guusje ter Horst says the Dutch domestic intelligence service is assessing the threats and will keep the Venray town council informed.

The activists claimed a major victory after a property developer decided to pull out of the construction of a new industrial park near the town of Venray in the south of the Netherlands.

Animal testing
The park - called Sciencelink - will house biotech research companies, many of whom carry out testing on animals. Animal rights groups in the Netherlands are vehemently opposed to the project.

Over the Christmas period, members of the radical Animal Liberation Front (DBF) visited the homes of a number of the development company's directors, confronting them and spraying their homes with slogans such as:

"Stop Sciencelink, Stop Animal Testing", and the more threatening "This time it's just paint. Next time we won't be so friendly. See you in the new year".

The company, Van der Looy Project Management, pulled out of the development, saying the opposition has become "threatening and unacceptable". 

Nightly anti-Sciencelink demonstration in Venray

Given in to threats
It's the first time a Dutch company has so openly given in to threats by the animal rights movement, and activists who say it won't be the last. A statement posted on the website said:

"If other developers show any interest in taking Van de Looy's place, then we can tell them now that we will be on their doorsteps not just once, but time and again."

The radicalisation of animal rights activists in the Netherlands is of increasing concern to the Dutch intelligence service, the AIVD, which released a report on the movement's activities last year.

"Home visits" were named in the report as one of the most common tactics. Activists with balaclavas or scarves covering their faces descend on the homes of employees of companies involved directly or indirectly with animal testing. They damage cars, daub slogans on the houses and threaten family members.

Vandalism and intimidation
The group Respect For Animals is named in the AIVD report as central to the movement. The group's spokesperson, Nina Kroos, denies that it is responsible for the "home visits". She says that the members of the Animal Liberation Front are operating outside her organisation - but refuses to condemn their actions.

As far as Respect For Animals is concerned, vandalism and intimidation are justified if aimed at relieving the suffering of animals. The limit, says Kroos, is that "no-one is killed and no-one is injured".

The Venray city councillor responsible for the Sciencelink project was both astonished and upset by the news. "I've always believed we live in a democracy" he said, "and the way the animal rights activists are behaving is not the way we should treat each other". The future of the project is uncertain now that Van Der Looy has pulled out.

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