Phytopharm wins animal rights ban

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The Independent Online

Phytopharm, THE drugs group developing treatments for obesity and Alzheimer's disease, went to the High Court yesterday in an attempt to halt a two-week campaign of intimidation by animal rights campaigners.

The company was granted injunctions against members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which has targeted Phytopharm because it works with Yamanouchi, a Japanese pharmaceuticals group that uses the controversial animal-testing laboratories at Huntingdon Life Sciences. Three named members of Shac, and the organisation more generally, have been told they must limit any protests close to Phytopharm's Cambridgeshire headquarters to six people and to two hours a week.

The injunctions came after Phytopharm alleged in the High Court that members of Shac had broken into its offices and intimidated staff. Daryl Rees, the chief operating officer, said it had been forced to take action, the first quoted UK drug company to do so under harassment legislation. Mr Rees said: "Having protestors running around desks, throwing leaflets at you has been upsetting for our employees".

Yamanouchi is bankrolling human trials of Phytopharm's most advanced drug, an Alzheimer's treatment, and Shac posted the company's address on its website last month.

HLS has been at the eye of the storm over vivisection since lax standards were exposed in the Nineties. The company insists it has cleaned up its act, but Shac's campaign against its shareholders and advisers drove it to delist from the London Stock Exchange in 2002. Last year, Deloitte resigned as the company's auditor after its staff were targeted.

The BioIndustry Organisation, the biotech sector lobby group, saidPhytopharm's move illustrates the need for a single piece of legislation to crack down on animal rights protestors.