ANIMAL rights campaigners camped outside a Swindon shop in protest against the firm providing funding for Oxford University.

The demonstration was carried out by members of the animal rights group SPEAK in front of the Vodafone store in Canal Walk yesterday lunch-time.

Around a dozen protesters converged on the town to voice their disapproval of Vodafone's policy of providing funding to the university, which is currently building a new biomedical research facility.

The group marched to the town centre after originally meeting up at Swindon train station and carried out similar demonstrations at the research councils in North Star and Liberata in Regent Circus during the afternoon.

And Mel Broughton, co-founder of SPEAK, said the purposes of the campaign group's visit to Swindon were to educate the public.

"We want to highlight what is happening," he said. "Vodafone funds Oxford University, which tortures animals and we think people have a right to know.

"We want people to boycott Vodafone, but we're not here to physically stop people from going in."

SPEAK members travelled from as far afield as Newcastle to take part in the protest and, under the watchful eye of half a dozen plain-clothed and uniformed police officers, their cause was sympathetically endorsed by some passers-by.

"I think they have got a good point," said 18-year-old Charlotte Blayley, of Alfred Street. "I don't agree with animal cruelty and I definitely wouldn't go in Vodafone now."

But not everyone was happy with the commotion outside the mobile phone shop.

Tony Nicholls was walking through town on his lunch break and was horrified by some of the speeches from the protestors. I thought it was disgraceful," he said. "They openly said they supported animal rights terrorists and one of them agreed with the people who stole the body of Gladys Hammond two years ago.

"At the end of the day I have got no problem with free speech, but this guy was ranting on about how violence would continue in the future, which was a breach of the peace."

The demonstration also attracted Swindon's most pro animal testing campaigner.

Sixteen-year-old Laurie Pycroft, founder of ProTest, was out shopping in one of the town centre's bookshops when he got a call from one of his mates to alert him to the protest.

He said: "I had a discussion with some of the protesters, while there was no hot headedness, I think it was a reasonable debate.

"Personally I would challenge their decision to demonstrate outside Vodafone because Voda-fone did not fund any animal trials, only human trials. I thought it was a peaceful protest and while they are wrong, I support their right to protest."

Tobias Yates, 21, of Park North, said: "I think they have every right to have a peaceful protest, surely in this society we have the right to protest?

"I think animal experiments are wrong in this day and age because there are a lot more experiments they can do."

"And the police just stood there and did nothing."