SHAMROCK Farm has wrapped itself in a cloak of secrecy for more than 40 years.

Few outsiders have been allowed to venture into the compound, a policy no doubt spurred by the threat to its staff.

Previously they have been forced to endure malicious phone calls, demonstrations outside their homes, hate mail and bomb threats.

In the past year the pressure on the farm to shut has been stepped up with the forming of Save the Shamrock Monkeys, which uses peaceful methods, organising protests including vigils and marches outside the farm in Small Dole, near Henfield.

Now Shamrock has gone on the offensive, claiming it has nothing to hide and inviting people, including an MP and protesters, on to the site for a tour.

Even so, the firm's managing director has asked not to be named for security reasons.

But she explained why she is proud of Shamrock's role in medical research.

She said: "Animals are used in research because they are biologically similar to human beings. "Monkeys share more biological and behavioural characteristics with humans than any other species, which is why they form such valuable animal models for some of the most difficult areas of medical research.

"No one wishes to use any animal unnecessarily and where non-animal methods give the necessary information, they must be used according to British law.

"Alternative techniques such as sophisticated computer programmes and cell cultures are useful in preliminary stages of testing a possible medicine but cannot tell what effects will occur in a complete living system.

"Compared to the millions of people who have benefited from medicines, only a tiny proportion have experienced serious unexpected side effects, and this indicates that the testing process works well.


"Current British law strictly controls the use of animals in research, it safeguards laboratory animal welfare while allowing important medical research to continue.

"Currently monkeys supplied by Shamrock are being used for safety testing of new pharmaceuticals being developed for use in areas such as Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, infantile asthma, Parkinson's disease and Aids.

"Scientists in the UK and abroad are working to develop new non-animal techniques which can replace animal tests in medical research.

"Until these techniques have been developed, it is essential that we should continue to value the lives of animals but, I believe, that the lives of people should and always will come first."

Toni Vernelli, of Save the Shamrock Monkeys, is against all animal experiments and has been co-ordinating the efforts of activists to shut down Shamrock Farm.

The 27-year-old from Canada, who lives in Sussex, has been campaigning for animal rights for 12 years.

Miss Vernelli was invited to tour the site last week by the firm's managing director but left unimpressed and vowing to continue the struggle.

She said: "Scientists can simply not have it both ways. On one hand they tell us these animals are so different from us that their pain and suffering doesn't matter, yet in the next breath they say what they learn from the animal's suffering is completely applicable to our species.

"Vaccines have harboured monkey retro-viruses which infected children, causing serious illness and death.

"Every year hundreds of people are admitted to hospital and many die from side effects caused by prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

"Clinical and epidemiological studies of humans offer far more accurate information without hurting anyone.

"Every monkey caged inside Shamrock's windowless sheds was torn away from its mother, crammed in a transport crate with several others and shipped halfway around the world.

"They live in constant fright, routinely pulled from their metal cages for examinations, injections and x-rays, before being shipped off to vivisection laboratories across Europe. Their suffering is indisputable. For their sake, and ours, Shamrock must close."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.