UK guinea pig farm to close after owner's family grave robbed

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A forty-year-old British guinea pig farm is to close after a six-year campaign of intimidation by animal rights extremists culminated in the remains of the family's dead mother being dug up and stolen.

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Glady Hammond's sons, who run the farm which breeds the guinea pigs for medical experiments, have been the victim of bomb threats, hate mail, malicious phone calls, an attempt to brand them as pedophiles, and arson attacks.

However last year's exhumation of their mother was the final straw. The remains of the 87-year-old, who died in 1997, were removed under the cover of darkness from the churchyard they were buried in, and have not been found.

Two men were arrested in connection with the grave robbery, but were later released without charge.

The family hopes that their announcement that the farm will close will lead to the return of their mother's remains.

A close relative of Mrs Hammond, who spoke anonymously to the BBC, said, "Gladys was a relative of the Halls by marriage only and had no involvement in guinea pig breeding. She was a kind, gentle country lady who loved animals."

Legal peaceful protesters were overjoyed at the news. Johnny Holmes, a spokesman for Stop the Newchurch Guinea Pigs, said: "This is the most fantastic day of my life." The group, which has picketted the farm for several years, says it will remain until all the guinea pigs have gone.

The group's website describes the experiments the guinea pigs were subjected to as being "horrendous", and have accused the farm of keeping tens of thousands of animals in poor conditions leading to many dying of malnutrition and neurosis. Video footage taken by the group inside the farm show many young animals dying and under extreme stress.[1]

They also say the animals have been used for cosmetics research and for "unscientific" medical experiments.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), in an online statement, gave their best wishes to the Hammond family, and described the decision as "regrettable but understandable".[2]

Their director of Science and Technology said, "Guinea pigs have provided essential information to support biomedical research into respiratory disease resulting in real breakthroughs in the development of new medicines."

The animals from the farm have been used in biomedical research, especially for respiratory diseases such as asthma. The ABPI also said that future animal research may be carried out in countries that do not have the strict welfare controls the UK has.