May 1, 2007
Thirty people have been arrested for alleged animal rights extremism in raids across the UK and Europe.
About 700 police officers and support staff were involved in the early morning operation at 32 addresses in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Police say the raids were one of the largest operations against animal rights extremists in the UK.
The 15 men and 15 women arrested will be questioned at undisclosed police stations across the UK.
There were 29 addresses raided in Berkshire, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, Greater London, Merseyside, Worcestershire, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Surrey and South Wales from 0530 BST.
Two unnamed locations in the Netherlands and one in Belgium were also raided.
Police say the "substantial operation" targeted burglary, conspiracy to blackmail, and offences against animal research operations.
The extremists' targets included Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, officers said.
Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard, of Kent Police, who commanded the operation, said: "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."
Mr Leppard said the operation focused on the south-east of England, because that was where extremist activity was concentrated.
Action was being taken to minimise any disruption caused by the raids, he added.
One of the locations raided was Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre in Ince Blundell, Merseyside.
Centre manager Dave Calendar, who says they have "nothing to hide", accused the police of "heavy-handed tactics".
Merseyside Police rejected claims that any injuries had been caused during the raid.
The operation is ongoing and no one has yet been charged.