Activists find new targets in fight against animal tests

Paul Peachey@peachey_paul
Wednesday 22 January 2014 03:16
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The target of the latest campaign against animal testing laboratory Huntingdon Life Sciences said yesterday he was considering suing because animal rights activists have set up camp near his home.

Members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) pitched their tents on a recreation ground and draped banners from trees that included the man's name and address. One was was painted with the words "murderer in your village''.

Small groups of protesters had also gathered nearly a mile away from his home, using a megaphone to denounce him for being a director of Marsh, which they claimed arranged insurance for the testing centre.

The demonstration marked a new tactic for the group that, by setting up camp away from the man's home, circumvented new legislation designed to prevent such protests.

But the target of the protest denied yesterday he was a director and said his company's legal department was assessing whether it could mount defamation proceedings against the activists.

He said he had not left his home in Kenton police advice since the protest started on Sunday. The man said: "They are wrong again. I am employed by Marsh but I work on some redevelopment projects.

"It has been most unpleasant. I know greater powers are looking at how they can respond to their tactics. It's unpleasant not only for me but the immediate neighbours.'' Shac said the protest was the first of a summer-long campaign against individuals or companies linked with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

It said directors of the faltering communications firm, Worldcom, would be targeted because Shac claimed it was providing internet and e-mail services for the company.

Activists have hatched plans, with the help of lawyers, to get around tighter restrictions of last year's amendment to the Criminal Justice and Police Act. The protesters in Kent have leafleted neighbours as well as demonstrated outside the man's house, leaving an poster on the front gate.

Police said nobody had been arrested but at least one patrol car has been permanently outside the gate. One of the leaflets showed a dead dog, soaked in blood with the caption "Your neighbour does this to dogs''.

The leaflet is topped with the words "Animal killer alert'' and encourages neighbours to "tell him what you think of him''. The protesters claim they have the support of many locals, but some neighbours denounced the protest. "These people are absolutely sure they are right and everyone else is a villain in their eyes,'' said one. "Not a single person supports them.''

HLS declined yesterday to say if Marsh was its insurance broker. A spokesman said it would wait to discover if police considered the new tactics to be illegal. He said: "It's still harassment of an individual and we will have to see what proceeds from that.''

Shac said the small protest in Kent would end last night. In the past, it has been remarkably successful with its variety of tactics against HLS.

Last year, it staged a series of lightning mobile protests against executives and depots of pharmaceutical companies after taking the testing centre to within hours of bankruptcy.

A number of finance houses, such as Barclays and HSBC, severed their ties with HLS after being targeted by Shac.

In January it de-listed from the Stock Exchange to try to protect the company and its shareholders but lost its main financial backer, Stephens.

Joseph Dawson, a spokesman for the protesters said: "We've been successful in the past. What we're doing now is targeting their essential services and that will cost them a lot of money.''

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