A special police team has been set up to crack down on violent demonstrations outside Shamrock Farm.

The MP Howard Flight raised in the Commons the threat faced by residents living near the farm. Campaigners fighting to close the farm have staged regular demonstrations at the site in Small Dole, near Henfield.

Shamrock (GB) Ltd, which sells monkeys to laboratories, has been the target of animal rights protesters for the last year. There have been scores

of arrests and skirmishes with the police and intimidation of employees at the farm. This has included thousands of pounds of damage being caused to an employee's car and graffiti attacks on staff homes.

Mr Flight, the MP for Arundel and South Downs, said in the House of Commons: "Staff have had their windows smashed. "At times they have been barricaded in their houses for three hours as a result of demonstrations, which the police admit are aimed at achieving the closing down of the farm."

He urged Home Office Minister Charles Clarke to hold talks with Sussex Police to clamp down on the vandalism and threats. Mr Clarke said: "I am advised that a new dedicated team has been established under a chief inspector as an acknowledgement of the growing seriousness of the situation. The police hope that those protesters who have been targeting the owners and work of Shamrock Farm will soon end up before the courts."

But Toni Vernelli, spokeswoman for Save the Shamrock Monkeys, has attacked the decision as a "waste of taxpayers' money". She said: "This is outrageous. The only violence at demonstrations has been from the police. At the last demonstration a man was taken to hospital with a broken hip and a woman from south London was treated for concussion. This is a waste of taxpayers' money and police time."

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