Protest held over aquarium

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Up to 75 campaigners brought traffic to a standstill in Bedford at the weekend during a protest over a proposed public aquarium project which is to be built in the county.

According to a report from the BBC, the demonstration was staged by Bedford Animal Action, the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS), the Green Party and SPEAK.

The BBC says that Bedford Animal Action opposes the plans to build The National Institute for Research into Aquatic Habitats (NIRAH) on the grounds of animal cruelty, despite the project still being in the planning stages.

Other campaigners fear that the domed complex, which will dwarf Cornwall's Eden Project, will be damaging to the local environment.

But the government funded East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has already loaned Nirah a reported 250m to fund the aquarium, which is to be the world's largest and will include state-of-the-art research facilities.

The East of England Development Agency believes that the project will boost the local economy in Bedfordshire by brining in tourists to the area.

Nirah is due to be built in a disused brick pit in Bedford and has been designed by world famous architect Nicholas Grimshaw.

In March 2005, we reported that animal rights campaigners were protesting against the aquarium and published NIRAH's response to their claims.

The project has also been accused of being a cover for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies who make substantial sums of money by finding unique proteins which they can investigate as candidates in the drug discovery process.

However, NIRAH says its main remit is actually to safeguard species from extinction:

"The overriding aim of NIRAH is to conserve endangered species and their indigenous habitats, including the humans inhabiting these places.

"By studying how to sustain these species in captivity, with a view to their eventual re-introduction, it is hoped that attributes of the species may be discovered (such as medically or scientifically useful or interesting venoms, poisons or toxins) which will encourage the people co-inhabiting their natural environments to actively protect and conserve them."