Saboteurs target the City

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ANIMAL rights activists are planning to step up a campaign of "economic sabotage" against a big animal-testing laboratory. They say they will target the company's institutional investors in a bid to get it to stop animal experiments.

The protesters want City and institutional investors, including the Co- operative Insurance Society (CIS), to pull out of Huntingdon Life Sciences. Police are examining anonymous letters containing death threats sent to Huntingdon's chief executive, Christopher Cliffe, and to a City businessman and director of one of Huntingdon's institutional shareholders.

Huntingdon's workers and directors have been the subject of threats and demonstrations. In one incident, the Bomb Squad carried out a controlled explosion on a suspect package addressed to Mr Cliffe. Other Huntingdon shareholders have been threatened, but the company is adam- ant neither it nor the City will give in to what it describes as "intimidation", and views it as an attempt to close it down.

Activists have already protested outside the Stock Exchange and tried to get the CIS to sell its holding in the company, which was last year at the centre of two documentaries and a UK government inquiry into allegations of cruelty. Two animal technicians were later given community service orders after ad- mitting cruelty to animals and the company paid $10,000 to the US Department of Agriculture without admitting liability after being cited for failing to record accurately the administration of pain- killers.

Huntingdon Life Sciences employs 1,600 people at sites in Huntingdon, Suffolk, and Wilmslow, and has subsidiaries in Princeton in the US, and Japan. It carries out thousands of experiments and research studies for the pharmaceutical and chemical industries every year. It points out that the experiments have to be carried out to meet government product and medical safety regulations, and that no medicine can be sold without having been tested on animals.

Les Stevens, a spokesman for campaigners opposed to Huntingdon's use of animals, who denied any knowledge of the death threats, said: "We view animal experiments as torture and we are appalled that the Co-op continues to invest in companies involved in vivisection. We will be taking it up with all the shareholders. Our aim is to get them to pull out of Huntingdon, and ultimately we aim to stop Huntingdon using animals. If we can find people who own shares we will leaflet their neighbours and let them know how they are making their money.

Huntingdon says it has the confidence of its institutional shareholders, the backing of its clients, and has carried out major reforms. It also complies with all government regulations to ensure minimal animal suffering.