Animal activists rule out attacks on Bank of England over Huntingdon

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The Independent Online

Animal rights activists promised to spare Bank of England staff from harassment campaigns yesterday after the Government bailed out a high-profile drug-testing company.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science minister, confirmed that the bank would handle the finances of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) because the company had failed to persuade any organisation to give it banking facilities.

A spokesman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which has campaigned against staff employed by firms doing business with Huntingdon, has ruled out using the same tactics with the Bank of England. He said: "We've never campaigned against any bank simply because it is offering HLS banking facilities and we have no plans to. Our targets are customers and people giving money to the company. We campaigned against the Royal Bank of Scotland because it gave them a loan."

Brian Cass, Huntingdon Life Sciences' managing director, said the move proved ministers were prepared to "stand firm on behalf of our whole industry against the kind of harassment and intimidation our staff, employees and our suppliers of all sorts have been subjected to".

Huntingdon has been looking for a clearing bank since NatWest, owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, withdrew its support this year. It survived only after securing finance from backers in America at the last moment. Its shares surged by nearly 120 per cent after yesterday's announcement.

In a written Lords answer, Lord Sainsbury said the Government had acted against the "intimidation of staff by animal rights extremists". He told BBC Radio 4 that Huntingdon was "doing very basic work of enormous importance to the medical industry".

Mark Matfield, the director of the Research Defence Society, said: "This is a hugely important decision. It shows that the Government is prepared to stand up to the intimidation by these extremists."