Demonstrations against the expansion of animal testing in Cambridgeshire have been ongoing for yearsFlickr:bedfordanimalaction

Cambridge City Council have this week approved a bid from pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to build an animal testing lab and new headquarters in Cambridgeshire. It will be the second animal testing lab in the county, alongside the already established Huntingdon Life Sciences centre.

The planning committee voted in favour of the planning application, which will see the corporation build a new UK base on the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. The development is estimated to cost around £330 million.

Present to hear the decision were members from Cambridge Against AstraZeneca Planning (CAP), a group formed to oppose this development. Around 40 protesters gathered at the Guildhall, representing a protest movement that has seen 10,000 activists contacting councillors about the new laboratory.

Speaking about the decision to Cambridge News, Rachel Mathai, spokeswoman for the CAP campaign said: “We are of course, bitterly disappointed about the Council's decision – over the course of the meeting it became very clear that the councillors had already made their minds up. This cause has attracted a wide and diverse range of people from different walks of life. The issues involved have caused the activist movement to unite against an incredibly tragic day for animals"

Ms. Mathai also added that animal rights activists in Cambridge would not be deterred, saying that, “We do not look on this as failure but rather inspiration for further, more action based campaigning. Also, the knowledge that we have spread the anti-vivisection message during this time further motivates us. We predict with certainty that Cambridge will become the epicentre of the global animal rights movement, involving passionate but lawful protest.” 

Responding to protestors, planning committee member Councillor John Hipkin said, “I see no good reason for opposing it and there are good reasons for supporting it. You must trust us that we have given full account to the representations made”. The council stated that they had considered CAP’s objections, but that they did not provide enough justification for denying AstraZeneca’s proposal.

Construction of the new facilities will begin at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus this spring, and is estimated to be completed in 2016. It will eventually employ up to 2000 people; 400 staff are moving to the Cambridge site shortly, and will work in temporary laboratories until the full completion of the project.

The building will have a purpose-built rodent facility, which will support the company’s early stage cancer research. On their website the corporation describe animal studies as “a vital part of the research process, required by regulators before they approve a new medicine to be tested on humans during clinical trials”.

Although the deadline for comment on the proposal has now passed, CAP are still encouraging the petition of councillors.