Alex Beam on SHAC Tactics

In a recent article Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam addressed the tactics advocated by groups such as Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.

Beam specifically mentioned SHAC harassment of executives of State Street Corp. State Street Corp. held significant shares of Huntingdon Life Sciences.

As Beam notes, “Here’s the kicker: These tactics work.” In April, State Street put out a press release announcing it would no longer hold shares of HLS and SHAC’s Frank Hampton said “We’ve declared victory over State Street.”

Should companies allow themselves to be blackmailed by this sort of harassment? Beam quotes an unidentified Life Sciences official as saying,

Americans have this tendency to be such cowards. Here we are fighting for the right of people not to be terrorized, yet we fear these activists who are posting the names of officers’ children on their Web site . . . The world of political activism is watching this campaign, because SHAC is doing something that has never been done before: They are using free speech to make people worry that they might be harmed. What is their objective? To instill terror.

That’s a concise description of the challenge in cracking down on this sort of activity — finding a way to discourage harassment without impinging on legitimate First Amendment rights.

Once the Supreme Court finally ways in on the limits of RICO statutes, the status of this sort of speech that falls into a gray area will hopefully become a lot clearer.


Animal rights and wrongs. Alex Beam. The Boston Globe, April 25, 2002.

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