RBS faces possible boycott by pharmaceutical firms in vivisection row

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The Independent Online

Royal Bank of Scotland is facing the threat of a boycott by the pharmaceutical industry because of its refusal to promise tomake lending decisions without regard to the threats of animal rights campaigners.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry says it is not satisfied with assurances from the bank which, earlier this year, refused to renew the overdraft of Huntingdon Life Sciences after the animal testing group came under attack from anti-vivisection campaigners.

Trevor Jones, the director general of the association, said he had approached all the large banks to establish that, as a matter of policy, they would not bow to threats of violence from activists. Only RBS had refused. "I would like an expression that they will support companies using animal research, which are legitimate businesses," said Mr Jones.

A spokesman for RBS said it could not give blanket promises to any sector and would make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

The association said it did not see its role as encouraging a boycott, but said it knew of at least two large pharmaceuticals companies that had changed banking arrangements in the light of events at Huntingdon.

The row blew up as the Government moved to allow directors of companies under threat to keep their home addresses private. Melanie Johnson, the consumer and competition minister, said the draft regulations would ensure home addresses are only available to legal and regulatory authorities.

"The biotech and research industries are a vital part of the UK economy. We are determined to support them, and protect their employees from further terrorisation," she said.

Bill Fullagar, the UK head of Novartis, said the actions of animal rights activists continued to disrupt the industry and terrorise staff.

"This has not gone away. About 20 per cent of my time is dedicated to dealing with what I choose to call terrorism. They are not just attacking offices and executives, but attacking secretaries," he said.

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