Protesters stage mock funeral for 'murdered' animals

Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Donna Jones

Portsmouth council leader demands £10m from government to fit sprinklers to high rises

Police watched as demonstrators staged a mock funeral march to mark international animal rights day at a controversial animal testing laboratory.

A dozen protesters gathered in Wickham Square dressed as funeral ushers and mourners, carrying a miniature coffin and gravestones to remember the animals they say are 'murdered' in Wickham Labs, near Fareham.

The members of Stop Wickham Animal Testing (SWAT) had written to police asking for permission to shut about 100yards of Winchester Road as they marched between Wickham Square and the labs, but were refused.

Protester Jeanette McClunan said: 'I think they've taken away our human rights and our right to peaceful protest.

'I thought this was supposed to change after the report reflecting on the G20 but the police just want to take control of everything they can.'

The group marched around the square before heading up to the labs. Workers leaving the labs were greeted with chants of: 'Animal murderers,' and asked: 'What's it like to have blood on your hands?'

But Hampshire Constabulary defended their decision to stop the protest from going on the road.

Chief Inspector Steve Baxter, of central OCU operations, said: 'When deciding whether or not to close a road we consider factors of safety, the right to peaceful protest, and the wider impact on the surrounding community, and we have to balance these sometimes competing interests when making a decision.

'If we had closed the road it would have meant closing the main route through Wickham in the middle of the afternoon, causing significant disruption to traffic in the area.'

And taking into account the problems of diverting heavy traffic, including lorries and buses, Ch Insp Baxter added: 'Having considered all of these factors I decided that this relatively small group of protesters could safely and peacefully protest without the road being closed.'

The Home Office is currently investigating claims made by the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) after one of its members worked undercover for eight months at the labs.

They claim to have uncovered numerous cases of animal cruelty. Lab technical director Chris Bishop has said they will work with the Home Office in its investigation.

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