Activists pose big threat, bosses warned




By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent

Financial Times, 30 May 2003

Businesses were given a chilling warning yesterday that violent protest groups can destroy them.

Brian Cass, managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, told a London conference how his company had been taken to the edge of extinction by animal rights extremists.

Mr Cass said the message for protesters was: “If you go to extreme violence, the chances are you will win.”

Listing the successes achieved by the campaign to isolate and harm HLS’s business of carrying out chemical and medical tests on animals, Mr Cass’s comments amounted to an admission that the company had lost key aspects of its fight.

A campaign by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty in 1999 forced the company’s bank, insurers, largest shareholders and even its refuse collector to end their business with HLS.

The campaign has yet to achieve its aim of forcing HLS to close. The company’s worldwide business brought revenues of $120m (£73m) last year and it numbers 48 of the world’s top 50 pharmaceutical companies among its customers. Orders have increased by 70 per cent in the four years since the campaign started, Mr Cass said.

But Shac’s efforts to isolate HLS and discourage other companies from associating with it have been highly successful, Mr Cass admitted. The company has been forced to spend £750,000 on a piped gas supply to its site due to the refusal of local fuel companies to deliver oil by tanker.

Shac has denied it was responsible for violence against company employees, which included cars being burned and Mr Cass being assaulted. Mr Cass appeared amid tight security at yesterday’s conference organised by the business advisory group Survive, and his presence had not been announced in advance.

He detailed the successes of the Shac campaign, which eventually led to the Bank of England arranging finance to keep the company afloat and the Department of Trade and Industry providing it with insurance. HLS now banks with Stephens Bank of the US.

The campaign launched by Shac is thought to have been led by fewer than 20 activists, though with up to 1,000 supporters in the UK and abroad. It expanded to include activists in Japan, where HLS customers became its targets.

“The number of activists isn’t huge, but their impact has been incredible,” said Mr Cass, standing beneath a poster distributed by Shac which had his photograph above the caption: “the most evil man in Britain”.

“There needs to be an understanding that this is a threat to all industries. The tactics could be extended to any other sectors of the economy,” he said.


© Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2008.