Is Recent Jailing of Anti-HLS Activists a Call to Action?
On January 21, 2009, British courts sentenced seven animal rights activists to prison terms ranging from 4 to 11 years; the sentences totaled an astounding 50 years. The seven activists were members of the group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, better known as SHAC, whose mission is to lead the global campaign to stop the killing of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences. Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is a contract research organization based in the United States, after fleeing from England as a result of the activist campaign there that exposed the cruelty and animal abuse taking place at HLS. They kill roughly 500 animals daily testing household products like oven cleaner, as well as pharmaceuticals for companies as big as Glaxo and Novartis.
The activists sentenced are: Heather Nicholson – 11 years, Gregg Avery – 9 years, Natasha Avery – 9 years, Gavin Medd-Hall – 8 years, Daniel Wadham – 5 years, Daniel Amos – 4 years and Gerrah Selby – 3 years. Justice Butterfield, who branded the activists "urban terrorists", handed down the sentences after convictions of "conspiracy to blackmail", a charge that requires a low threshold of proof. None of the activists was accused of harming anyone or even causing any property damage.
Upon hearing Justice Butterfield’s remarks, Press Officer Camille Hankins commented: "The real terrorists are the ones that are torturing and killing animals at places like Huntingdon Life Sciences. Justice Butterfield must not have seen the videotape of the atrocities committed at Huntingdon Life Sciences, which included a beagle puppy being punched in the face and a monkey being cut open alive."
Despite the imprisonment of some of the defendants for over 18 months as they awaited trial, SHAC has continued to plague Huntingdon Life Sciences. According to a recent financial statement, with outstanding debt of $75 million and a plummeting share price, Huntingdon Life Sciences recently announced that they were downsizing their company and planning a move back to England in hopes of securing additional financing to keep them afloat.
In November 2008, HLS reported having lost two key contracts, resulting in an immediate and steep drop in share price. Huntingdon Life Sciences, trading under the name Life Sciences Research (ticker symbol LSR on the NYSE ARCA Exchange) had previously reached a high of $39.30 per share. After a steady and rapid decline, on January 27, 2009, they traded at a low of $6.73, their lowest share price in several years. Hankins speculated: "In light of the current economy and the ramping up of the global campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, it would not surprise me if they filed for bankruptcy in the very near future."
News of the sentences elicited an immediate response from the global network of activists working on the campaign. Solidarity actions and demonstrations are being staged throughout the United Kingdom and around the world. In Moscow, sixty activists protested at the Moscow office of AstraZeneca, one of Huntingdon Life Sciences most important clients. In New York City, the group Win Animal Rights held 3 days of solidarity protests at the homes of investors and customers of Huntingdon Life Sciences. One protest was held at the Central Park West home of Andrew Baker, CEO and Chairman of HLS and another at the home of Robert Kelly, CEO and Chairman of Bank of New York Mellon, one of HLS' largest investors.
"This latest sentencing is a wake up call. Those who suffer the brunt of the state’s repression are those who maintain a high profile in the movement, not those who are clandestinely going about the business of animal liberation…." commented Press Officer and physician Dr. Jerry Vlasak "…The message is clear. Stay safe, stay free and stay anonymous and you can continue to fight for animal liberation by destroying those who exploit, torture and murder innocent animals."
Neither activists nor the system as a whole can accept defeat on behalf of the HLS campaign, so it has become a strategic point of engagement affecting all animal activists. If a retreat is staged, all targets of protest will know activists can be waited out or crushed; yet if HLS goes bankrupt, every bloodthirsty multinational corporation on Earth will know people have the strength, the tools, and the strategy to make them next in line for bankruptcy. This means the "Battle of HLS" has become a meeting engagement, and neither activists nor the animals they defend can afford to lose this fight, no matter what the cost.
Contact: Press Officer Jerry Vlasak, MD
Animal Liberation Press Office
6320 Canoga Avenue #1500
Woodland Hills, CA 91367