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Tony Blair has come out in strong support of animal testing by signing the online “People's Petition”, which hopes to give a voice to a “silent majority”, who it says back research.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, the PM said: “Many millions more will be spared an early death or a life of pain because of the research now underway. They deserve our support. And they should get it.”

His public stance comes after a week when animal testing hit courts and headlines once again with the sentencing of the guinea pig farm graverobbers. Pharma giant Glaxo also won an injunction on Wednesday against intimidation of its shareholders.

Animal rights groups swiftly moved to condemn Blair for joining the 16,000 who have signed the petition at the time of writing. The BBC reports the National Anti-Vivisection Society's Jan Creamer saying: “This petition is being run by an extremist group of vested interests representing a very narrow area of medical research.”

An organisation called the Coalition for Medical Progress (CMP) is behind the People's Petition. The CMP is a grouping of drug companies, the government research councils, doctors bodies and charities.

Conservative Roger Gale, who has frequently spoken out against animal testing, called Blair's step a “gimmick” that will not fool or please anyone.

However, Glaxo chief executive Jean-Pierre Garnier said: "I am greatly encouraged by his personal commitment, and that of his government, to ensuring an environment in the UK that is conducive to the research and development of vital new medicines."

Blair added that the new Company Law Reform Bill will offer more protection to shareholders from extremist campaigners.

Blair's pro-testing article is here. The People's Petition is here. ®

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