Stephen Hawking, the Cambridge mathematics professor and best-selling author, yesterday condemned the use of violence and intimidation against organisations and individuals that use animals in medical research.
"I think the fuss over the use of animals in medical research is ridiculous," said Prof Hawking, 56, a long-time sufferer of Motor Neurone Disease.
"Why is it worse to use animal experiments to save lives, rather than to eat them, which the majority of the population is happy to do?"
Like thousands of other Britons with Motor Neurone Disease, Prof Hawking's well-being ultimately lies in research conducted on mice to find a cure for the currently untreatable disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord.
The disease has left Prof Hawking unable to do almost anything for himself except to speculate on the origins of the universe and to communicate his findings through a voice synthesiser and keyboard. His condemnation of animal extremists came in support of Prof Colin Blakemore, a vivisectionist and president of the British Association, which is holding its annual festival in Cardiff this week.
Prof Blakemore was delayed at his home yesterday morning after 500 animal activists held a demonstration at Hillgrove Farm, near Witney, Oxon, which breeds cats for experimentation. There were 15 arrests.
"I have used no cats in the last year personally, but my students use about six a year to develop brain and nerve imaging techniques on cats and humans," he said. "The cats are anaesthetised with a single injection and never wake up. There is no possibility of any pain or suffering."
Prof Blakemore and his children have lived under activists' threats for 11 years, during which two letter bombs and many packages containing razor blades have been sent to his home.
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