The chief executive of a charity has hit back at protesters who held a demonstration oone of its charity shops.

The Waltham Forest Animal Protection group staged a demonstration against animal testing by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) on Saturday in High Street, Wanstead.

The group claims the charity funds thousands of tests on animals such as dogs, sheep, pigs, and mice.

It believes the tests, part of scientific research into heart conditions, cause suffering to animals and provide unreliable results.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of BHF, said he was “saddened” by the news people were protesting in Wanstead and said his charity only tests on animals when there is “no alternative”.

He said: “At the BHF, we’re dedicated to saving lives by developing better treatments and cures for heart and circulatory conditions that affect the lives of more than seven million people across the UK.

“We’re saddened that people are protesting outside of our shops and hope our loyal supporters and members of the public continue to support our lifesaving work by shopping with us.

“We understand people have strong views about research involving animals and this isn’t a decision we take lightly.

“We only fund animal research when there is no alternative and the research is likely to lead to a medical benefit for patients.

“The majority of lifesaving medical advances that today benefit millions of heart patients involved research involving animals.

“And while there are no alternatives that can reproduce the complicated working of our hearts and circulatory systems, we believe this research is vital to future breakthroughs that could save many more lives.”