ACTIVISTS gathered in York to launch an international campaign against animal testing.

Lobby group Uncaged converged in Parliament Street, to unveil posters calling for a boycott of pharmaceutical giant Procter & Gamble, while campaigners in giant rabbit costumes called on shoppers and tourists to boycott the firm's products.

Uncaged say the company tests chemicals on animals before using the substances in items such as cosmetic products or washing powders.

Animal testing for cosmetics is banned in the UK, but not elsewhere.

Dr Dan Lyons, campaign director for Uncaged, said: "The vast majority of people are opposed to Procter & Gamble's animal tests, so our campaign is pushing at an open door.

"We aim to make people realise that if they buy P&G products, then they are paying for wanton cruelty to animals. But by boycotting P&G, they hold the key to saving thousands of animals from severe suffering."

York councillor Paul Blanchard also backed the campaign.

He said: "If consumers stop buying P&G products then that will place real pressure on them to stop testing on animals.

"I'm passionate about animal welfare issues and always have been - I firmly believe that animals are not ours to experiment on.

"The electorate really do care too - when I was canvassing for re-election around Heworth, I spoke to dozens of people who were very supportive of my campaign on foie gras and I put my substantial increase in votes, bucking the national trend, partly down to that.

"People want politicians who are passionate and prepared to stand up for what they believe in."

Coun Blanchard has been behind a major campaign to ban the sale of foie gras in the UK.

Procter & Gamble is the world's largest consumer products company, and make famous brands such as Ariel, Daz, Fairy, Iams, Max Factor, Olay, Clairol, Pantene Pro-V, Herbal Essences, and Head And Shoulders.

Uncaged say many chemicals are force-fed to hundreds of animals, dripped into their eyes, or rubbed into raw skin. They say the animals are then killed and dismembered so their tissues can be analysed.

Procter & Gamble were not able to comment at time of going to press.