Labour’s new threat to campaigners

ANIMAL RIGHTS activists are being targeted by police and politicians, who are threatening a clampdown on their activities. Government ministers are looking at introducing new legislation, strengthening harassment laws and using anti-social orders, after pressure from big business.

Molly Cooper

The president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Bill Fullagher, has urged the government to clamp down on what they call “economic terrorism” .

These proposed new measures are in addition to Labour’s new anti-terrorist legislation which potentially targets all protesters and opponents of capitalism, including animal rights protesters.

Pharmaceutical companies have also announced that they are unwilling to invest in this country due to pressure from animal rights activists. This was linked to the firebombing of five cars of employees working for Huntingdon Life Sciences(HLS), Europe’s largest contract research organisation, which carries out research on live animals. Last year, police claimed 1,200 incidents involving animal rights activists, including six with explosives and eight arson attacks.

A group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) have been the main organisers behind the campaign to close down HLS. Responding to the recent allegations they say: “Ours is a peaceful non-violent campaign. Causing damage to property is not our chosen method of campaigning. But we can understand the feelings of fustration and anger which may prompt an action like this”.

What has differentiated SHAC from other animal rights campaigns is their main tactic of targeting shareholders and company bankers to persuade them to drop shares and put financial pressure on HLS. They have organised demonstrations outside city offices and individual shareholder’s homes. They have put lists of company directors on their web site, and organised phone and fax blockades of shareholders.

This campaigning has so far paid off. Some argue it is only a matter of time before HLS closes down.

Shareholders Phillips and Drew have offloaded their 11% stake in HLS. In June, HLS broker WestLB Pamure resigned as shareholders, and The Royal Bank of Scotland refused to renew their £24 million overdraft facility for HLS. Although, according to SHAC, they have now extended HLS’s overdraft for a further two months.

A demonstration organised in the city this week will be accompanied by a phone blockade of financial institution Merrill Lynch, whose subsidiary, NY Nominees, owns 8.5 million shares in HLS.

As a result, Huntingdon Life Sciences are having to refinance their debt with privately owned US investment firm FHP Realty LLC. Huntingdon will sell some research centres to FHP and lease them back on 20-25 year agreements.

Huntingdon Life’s second quarter results for the three months to June, included a pre-tax loss of £2.47 million, up 8.4% from £2.28 million in the 1999 period, on turnover up 11.7% at £15.9 million. The stock has been on a continuous decline from mid-1990.

Labour in its role of defending big business interests see animal rights activists as an obvious target. But even if ‘violent’ acts are dealt with under Labour’s proposed new laws how will they be able to counter the effects of campaigns such as SHAC’s, which shows that if you want to hurt the capitalists the best place to do it is in their profits.