UK to change law over HLS attacks?
The UK government is considering strengthening police powers against animal rights extremists following attacks on employees and shareholders of a contract research company. Activists firebombed five vehicles parked outside the homes of employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS - Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire). Cambridgeshire police said that it was only by chance that no-one was killed or injured, and that unless such attacks were stopped, police might soon be investigating murder, rather than arson.
HLS' employees, shareholders and brokers have long suffered abuse from animal rights campaigners, ranging from demonstrations to torched cars, hate mail and phone calls at night (Animal Pharm No 447, p 16).
Speaking on BBC radio, UK Home Secretary Jack Straw said the police wanted new powers to tackle these problems. He described the anjmal rights campaigners' actions as "absolutely preposterous" and the HLS employees as "law-abiding people doing a job on behalf of the rest of us". He added: "Many of us would not be able to lead healthy lives were it not for the pharmaceutical companies being able to test their drugs on animals."
Andrew Gay, marketing manager of HLS. told Animal Pharm that the company had been in discussions with the Home Office for months, following the consistent abuse. "We've asked the government to give more security to the names and addresses of people who work in biomedical companies, and shareholders, to protect them from potential harassers." He said the government was considering asking the courts to give tougher sentences for perpetrators of such attacks. The extent of change in the relevant legislation had not yet been decided: "But it's good to see the government moving in that direction."
Mr Gay noted that with the increasing frequency and violence of the protests, media opinion had changed significantly in the past six months. "Now animal rights groups are being asked to justify acts of violence. The extremists have lost support already, and they will lose the support of more moderate sympathisers as they go on. It's been a tough time, but we're winning."
Animal Pharm No 452 8th September 2000 p3