FOLLOWING this week's focus on animal rights extremism, the RSPCA would like to make one thing absolutely clear: we unreservedly condemn the actions of those who take part in intimidation and violence in the name of bringing laboratory experiments on animals to an end.

In our view, campaigns to intimidate shareholders, or the one carried out by the four guinea pig farm activists who were sentenced after admitting charges of conspiracy to blackmail, have only succeeded in damaging the animal welfare cause.

While we welcome discussion surrounding the moral status of animals in society, the use of intimidation and violence is completely unacceptable and has absolutely no place in this or any other debate.

The public debate about animal testing has become nothing more than a slanging match between someone in a lab coat and someone in a balaclava.

All this does is entrench views to such an extent that legitimate concerns about animal suffering and the justification for individual experiments are lost.

The RSPCA is deeply concerned about the suffering of animals in experiments, and believes there should be much more commitment to replacing animals with humane alternatives. Until this can be achieved, the society works in a constructive way to ensure the numbers of animals used and their levels of suffering are reduced as much as possible.

This way of working delivers the animal welfare message exactly where it is needed, with most chance of it being taken up.

Alan Wolinski RSPCA regional manager for the North