Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
|Focus(es)||Animal-rights campaign to close Huntingdon Life Sciences. Opposition to animal testing.|
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) is an international animal rights campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), Europe's largest contract animal-testing laboratory. HLS tests medical and non-medical substances on around 75,000 animals every year, from rats to primates. It has been the subject of several major leaks or undercover investigations by activists and reporters since 1989.
SHAC was started in November 1999 by three British animal rights activists — Greg Avery, Heather James, and Natasha Dellemagne — after video footage supposed to have been shot covertly inside HLS in 1997 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed HLS staff shaking, punching, and shouting at beagles in their care. The footage was broadcast by Channel 4 in the UK, the employees were dismissed and prosecuted, and HLS's licence to perform animal experiments was revoked for six months. PETA stopped its protests against the company after HLS threatened it with legal action, and SHAC took over as a leaderless resistance.
The campaign has used tactics ranging from non-violent protest to the alleged firebombing of houses owned by executives associated with HLS's clients and investors. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors US domestic extremism, has described SHAC's modus operandi as "frankly terroristic tactics similar to those of anti-abortion extremists," and in 2005 an official with the FBI's counter-terrorism division referred to SHAC's activities in the United States as domestic terrorist threats. In 2009 and 2010, 13 members of SHAC, including Avery, James, and Dellemagne, were jailed for between 15 months and eleven years on charges of conspiracy to blackmail or harm HLS and its suppliers.
HLS tests household cleaners, pesticides, weedkillers, cosmetics, food additives, chemicals for use in industry, and drugs for use against Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. It uses around 75,000 animals every year, including rats, rabbits, pigs, dogs, and primates (marmosets, macaques, and wild-caught baboons).
The company has been the subject of several undercover investigations since 1989. Sarah Kite of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) secured a job and filmed inside HLS in 1989. Zoe Broughton did the same for Channel Four in 1996, as Michelle Rokke claimed to have done for PETA in 1997. Lucy Johnston for The Daily Express gained access in 2000. A diary kept by Kite, who worked undercover there for eight months, alleged that HLS workers routinely mishandled the animals, shouting at them, throwing them into their cages, and mocking them for having fits in response to toxicity tests. In 1997, Zoe Broughton came out with footage showing puppies being hit and shaken. A year later, Michelle Rokke allegedly obtained footage of the vivisection of a monkey in HLS in New Jersey, in which a technician expresses concern that the animal is inadequately anaesthetized. Between 2006 and 2008, an Animal Defenders International employee filmed undercover inside HLS after securing a position inside its primate toxicology unit in Cambridgeshire.
According to Mark Matfield of the Research Defence Society, a pro-animal testing lobby group in the UK, HLS lost a great deal of business after these investigations, primarily among the pharmaceutical industry. "There was an ingrained feeling among scientists and business people that this company had transgressed in a very serious way," he said.
SHAC was founded in November 1999 by Greg Avery; his second wife, Natasha Avery (née Dellemagne); and his first wife, Heather Nicholson (née James). Avery and Nicholson had been involved in previous high-profile campaigns against facilities in the UK that bred animals for laboratories. In 1997, after a ten-month campaign, they caused the closure of Consort Kennels, which bred beagles for animal research. Later that year, they started Save the Hill Grove Cats against Hill Grove farm in Oxfordshire, which bred cats for laboratories. The farm closed after two years.
SHAC maintains a decentralized approach with no official central leadership, allowing activists throughout the UK and North America to act autonomously, though The Guardian described Avery in 2008 as the de facto leader. After Avery was jailed, another activist, Thomas Harris, ran the group in the UK until he was imprisoned in 2010. Before their convictions, Nicholson, Avery, and Dellemagne would publish reports on the SHAC website and by mail, and provide press information and interviews; in April 2004 they were reported to be living together rent-free in a cottage provided by a supporter, Virginia Jane Steele. SHAC also obtains income from fundraising stalls. According to The Times, one stall in London's Oxford Street could generate £500 in a single day, and in total around £1 million in donations had been raised by 2008.
According to prosecutors in a 2008 court case, the senior members of SHAC co-ordinated the campaign from a cottage in Little Moorcote, near Hook, Hampshire. They would meet every three months to receive updates from colleagues in the United States and Europe. According to The Times, Gavin Medd-Hall, a former computer technician, would lead research into potential targets; police found spreadsheets at the cottage documenting the location of targets and details about their children and security arrangements. Sarah Whitehead, an experienced campaigner known in the group as "Mumsy," would lead younger members and carry up to five attacks in a night, according to the judge.
SHAC USA was founded in 2004 by Kevin Jonas, sometimes spelled Kjonaas by the media, a political science graduate of the University of Minnesota, after he had spent two years working in the UK with Greg Avery. Prosecutors in the U.S. said that a house in Somerset, New Jersey—a few miles from an HLS laboratory—was the headquarters of SHAC USA; Jonas lived there with Lauren Gazzola, SHAC USA's campaign co-ordinator, and Jacob Conroy. According to Jonas, the "SHAC campaign" came to mean any action aimed at contributing to the demise of HLS, whether legal or not, while SHAC itself referred only to the incorporated group that ran a news and information service. Jonas writes that these distinctions were made in various legal proceedings. He told the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2002: "There's a very famous quote by John F. Kennedy. If you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable." After he was imprisoned in 2006 for inciting harassment against HLS, Pamelyn Ferdin, a former child actor, became president of SHAC USA.
Secondary and tertiary targeting
SHAC's modus operandi is known as secondary and tertiary targeting. Activists engage in direct action—ranging from lawful protests to intimidation, harassment, and violent attacks—not only against HLS, its employees, and its employees' families, but also against secondary and tertiary targets such as HLS's business partners, and their business partners, insurers, caterers, cleaners, children's nursery schools, and office suppliers. A New York yacht club, for example, was covered in red paint because members of the club worked for Carr Securities, which traded in HLS shares. The campaign drove down HLS's profits, suppressed its share price, and made it difficult to find business and financial partners.
The Daily Mail cites as examples of SHAC activism sending letters to the neighbours of a man who did business with HLS, warning parents to keep their children away from him, falsely claiming that he had raped the letter writer when she was a child. A woman in her 60s, who worked for a company targeted by SHAC, had every window in her house smashed during the night and found an effigy hanging outside her home, which read "R.I.P. Mary, Animal Abusing Bitch". The SHAC website said it published names and addresses only so that people could protest within the law, but testimony to the British House of Commons in 2003 included excerpts from a document reported to have come from SHAC, which advised activists on tactics for protests outside targets' homes. These included throwing rape alarms in roof guttering at night, setting off fireworks, and ordering taxis and pizzas. In 2001, HLS managing director in the UK, Brian Cass, was beaten outside his home by three masked men — animal rights activist David Blenkinsop was sentenced to three years in prison for the attack — and HLS marketing director Andrew Gay was attacked on his doorstep with a chemical spray to his eyes that left him temporarily blinded.
In 2000, SHAC obtained a list of HLS shareholders, including the names of usually anonymous beneficial owners—those holding shares through third parties—and the pension funds of the British Labour Party, Rover cars, and the London Borough of Camden. The list was passed to The Sunday Telegraph, which published it on 3 December 2000, and several beneficial owners disposed of their shares; the Labour Party sold its 75,000 shares in January 2001. Two weeks after the Telegraph story, an equity stake of 32 million shares was placed on the London Stock Exchange for one penny each. On 21 December 2000, HLS was dropped from the New York Stock Exchange because its market capitalization had fallen below NYSE limits, and on 29 March 2001, HLS lost both of its market makers and its place on the London Stock Exchange. Shortly after this, HLS moved its headquarters to the United States, incorporating as Life Sciences Research (LSR), and secured a $15m loan from investment bank Stephens, Inc, its largest shareholder. In September 2005, after the firebombing of the homes of a Canadian brokerage employee and a British pharmaceutical executive, the New York Stock Exchange asked LSR to delay moving its listing from the OTC Bulletin Board to the main exchange. LSR has since transferred its listing to the NYSE Arca electronic exchange. HLS is no longer a publicly traded company after being bought by CEO Andrew Baker.
In June 2005, Vancouver-based brokerage Canaccord Capital announced that it had dropped a client, Phytopharm PLC, in response to the May 2005 ALF firebombing of a car belonging to Canaccord executive Michael Kendall. The ALF stated on its website that activists placed an incendiary device under the car, which was in Kendall's garage at home when it caught fire during the night. Kendall and his family went into hiding. Phytopharm was targeted, as were those doing business with it, because it had business links with HLS.
In May 2006, an anonymous group said it would be writing to every one of GlaxoSmithKline's 170,000 small investors warning them to sell their shares. The letters began arriving at investors' home addresses on 7 May 2006, asking that shares be sold within 14 days, and that the group be informed of the sale by e-mail via a Hotmail address. The number of letters sent was smaller than claimed; the BBC said at least 50 shareholders received the warning. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph the following week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed support for animal experimentation in the face of an "appalling...campaign of intimidation."
Ties to the ALF
The SHAC website features ALF news. Kevin Jonas—who took charge of SHAC UK while the Averys and James were jailed for six months in 2002—declared his support for the ALF, and Robin Webb, spokesman for the ALF in the UK, attended and addressed SHAC conferences in the United States.
A posting on the website Bite Back on 7 September 2005 said that the ALF had carried out an attack on the home of Paul Blackburn, the corporate controller of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in Buckinghamshire, because GSK is a customer of HLS. The activists admitted to detonating a device containing two litres of fuel and four pounds of explosives on the doorstep of Blackburn's home. In 2006 the ALF warned that it was targeting HLS suppliers, and that year firebombed a car belonging to the finance director of Canaccord Capital, a brokerage firm. Members of SHAC said the company had acted as brokers for Phytopharm, which had used HLS for contract testing. In December 2006, Donald Currie was jailed for 12 years in connection with fire bombing offenses against HLS customers; police described him as an "active bomber for the Animal Liberation Front."
A British police operation found that the core group of SHAC activists would compile private encrypted reports detailing the legal protests and an illegal blackmail campaign—the former attributed to SHAC, the latter claimed by the ALF or Animal Rights Militia. In 2008 and 2010 when 13 SHAC members, including the Averys and Nicholson, were convicted of conspiracy to blackmail, police said their actions were on behalf of the ALF; senior members of SHAC were regarded by police as key figures within the ALF, according to The Guardian. The members had sent incriminating emails describing their involvement in direct action, including one email sent to Bite Back in 2007 providing the details of an ALF attack the previous evening. SHAC spokespersons have denied any link between their campaign and the ALF.
The FBI have also linked SHAC with attacks claimed by the militant animal rights group, the Animal Liberation Brigade. They issued an arrest warrant for Daniel Andreas San Diego, who they described as being "involved with the Stop Huntington Animal Cruelty campaign", in connection with bomb attacks against two of HLS's clients in California. A wiretap of Kevin Jonas' telephone revealed San Diego had called him on the day of one of the bombings. San Diego was added to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists List in 2009 and remains at large.
Convictions and legislation
Several companies targeted by SHAC in the UK obtained injunctions. These include HLS itself, Chiron UK, Phytopharm, Daiichi UK, Asahi Glass, Eisai, Yamanouchi Pharma, Sankyo Pharma, and BOC. The injunctions compelled SHAC to print the injunction on their website, so that SHAC's action targets were juxtaposed with a legal notification that there was a 50-yard exclusion zone around the homes of employees and places of business. Protest outside HLS itself was allowed to occur one day a week with a police presence. HLS tried but failed in June 2004 to obtain a permanent injunction against SHAC. SHAC's argument against the enforceability of such injunctions was that, despite having hundreds of supporters, a website, mailing address, telephone information hotline, mailing list, and bank account, it does not exist as a corporate or charitable body, and therefore cannot prevent its supporters from taking action against HLS.
SHAC's campaign prompted the introduction of sections 145–149 of the British Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which created new offences intended to protect animal-testing facilities, including prohibiting acts or threats intended to cause someone to terminate or not enter into a contract with such a facility. The first person to be convicted under the Act was Joseph Harris, a doctor of molecular biology, who attacked property owned by companies supplying materials to HLS; he received a three-year sentence. In February 2007, a number of SHAC supporters were charged with illegal street collecting without a licence. According to the Metropolitan Police, two stalls in London's Oxford Street collected over £80,000 a year. In March 2007, three activists were jailed under the Act for intimidating HLS suppliers; one supplier dropped its contract with HLS after being invaded by demonstrators wearing skull masks.
2006: SHAC 7 (U.S.)
In March 2006, a federal jury in Trenton, New Jersey, found six members of SHAC guilty of using their website to incite attacks on those who did business with HLS. Originally, seven individuals (the SHAC 7) were charged: Kevin Jonas (former president of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA), Lauren Gazzola, Jacob Conroy, Joshua Harper, Andrew Stepanian, Darius Fullmer, and John McGee. McGee was later dropped from the case. They were charged with conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, in the first application of the 1992 statute. Jonas, Gazzola, Conroy, and Harper were also charged with conspiracy to harass using a telecommunications device (sending black faxes), while Jonas, Gazzola, Conroy, and SHAC USA were charged with stalking via the Internet. The defense of the SHAC 7 rested largely on the 1969 case Brandenburg v. Ohio, in which the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that political speech is legal unless it can be shown that a defendant has told specific individuals to commit specific, imminent acts of violence. They were sentenced on 3 March 2006, four of them to between three and six years, and ordered to pay a joint restitution of $1,000,001.00. In 2011, NPR reported that Andrew Stephanian of the SHAC 7, since released, had been imprisoned in a highly restrictive Communication Management Unit in the U.S. federal prison system.
2007: Operation Achilles (UK)
On 1 May 2007 a series of raids—Operation Achilles—took place against SHAC in Europe, involving 700 police officers in England, Amsterdam, and Belgium. Thirty-two people were arrested, including Greg and Natasha Avery, and Heather Nicholson, who were charged with blackmail, along with nine others. The Averys pleaded guilty in July 2008, along with a co-accused Dan Amos. In October 2008 Trevor Holmes, Gerrah Selby, Daniel Wadham, Gavin Medd-Hall, and Heather Nicholson, who denied the charges, were sent to court. Prosecutors told jurors that a 2007 meeting between the defendants had been bugged by police, and revealed that SHAC supported illegal acts that were traced to attacks on people across Britain. The prosecution also alleged there was evidence of direct email links between SHAC, the Animal Liberation Front, and Animal Rights Militia. Holmes was acquitted and the other four were convicted. In January 2009, Nicholson was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, Greg and Natasha to nine years, Medd-Hall to eight years, Wadham to five years, and Selby and Amos to four years. Injunctions called Anti-Social Behaviour Orders were served on all seven, restricting their contact with companies targeted in the campaign. In 2009 The Sunday Times reported that Adrian Radford, a former soldier and gay rights activist, had befriended Natasha Avery and had been informing the police about the activity of senior SHAC members between 2004 and 2007. Der Spiegel wrote that as a result of the police operation the number of attacks on HLS and associated businesses declined drastically, though the day after the convictions new posts on SHAC's website indicated that the campaign continued.
In 2008, activists from various groups, including SHAC, targeted Highgate Rabbit Farm in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, which sold rabbits and ferrets to HLS and other laboratories; the Close Highgate Farm campaign included an ALF raid in which 129 rabbits were removed and £100,000-worth of property damaged. In 2009, a new group, Militant Forces Against Huntingdon Life Sciences, emerged in Germany and Switzerland, targeting Bayer staff, a Novartis director, the CEO of Pfizer, and Highgate farm, among others.
In 2010 five more members of SHAC pleaded guilty to criminal charges. Sarah Whitehead, Nicole Vosper and Thomas Harris plead guilty to conspiracy to blackmail; Jason Mullan and Nicola Tapping plead guilty to breaching section 145 of SOCPA. They were all jailed for between six years and fifteen months. The Times reported that their activities included "posting hoax bombs to homes and offices, making threats of violence, daubing abusive graffiti on property and sending used tampons in the post."  Harris' sentence was extended after he, Maria Neal and Christopher Potter also pleaded guilty to additional charges relating to attacks on branches of Barclays, including painting "ALF" on the buildings. At the time Barclays Asset Management was linked to HLS.
2013 - SHAC continue with occasional very small ineffective demonstrations yet Huntingdon Life Sciences continues to do business.
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- Also see Mann, Keith. From Dusk 'til Dawn: An insider's view of the growth of the Animal Liberation Movement. Puppy Pincher Press, 2007, pp. 198–199.
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- SHAC Disclaimer
- House of Commons Hansard Debates, 19 March 2003.
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- Huntingdon Life Sciences, financial report 2002.
- "Huntingdon delays listing after attacks", The Guardian, 8 September 2005.
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- "Animal rights activists tell drug firm's small investors to sell up or else", The Guardian, 9 May 2006
- Glaxo wins injunction over threat 9 May 2006
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- Bomb attack on Glaxo executive, The Times, 28 September 2005
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- External links
- SHAC website
- Huntingdon Life Sciences website
- Indymedia UK SHAC topic page
- The Shac 7
- The footage shot undercover inside HLS by PETA; see the same footage on YouTube.
- "Inside HLS", describes five undercover investigations into HLS between 1989 and 2001
- Diaries of Despair, Uncaged Campaigns, accessed 17 January 2011.
- "Hit 'Em Head On", SHAC, 9-minute video on YouTube, 2006.
- "Time for Action 3", SHAC, 4-minute video on YouTube, 2005.
- Books and articles
- Bhattacharya, Shaoni. Scientists demand law against animal rights extremism, New Scientist, 22 April 2004.
- British Home Office. "Animal Welfare—Human Rights: protecting people from animal rights extremists, July 2004.
- Cox, Simon and Vadon, Richard. "How animal rights took on the world", BBC Radio 4, retrieved 18 June 2006.
- CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective (Fall 2006). "The SHAC Model: A Critical Assessment". Rolling Thunder (6): 11–28.
- Gibson, Ian. Statement by Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North) Hansard, 19 March 2003.
- Robbins, John. "Red in Tooth and Law", The Lawyer, 16 August 2004.