Great Britain Grants Early Release to Anti-HLS Activists

After all of this talk recently from UK government officials about how they are prepared to get tough with animal rights activists who cross the line, The Financial Times reports that in fact two animal rights activists sentenced to six months in jail for a campaign of harassment were released early several weeks ago.

Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty activists Greg Avery, 35, Natasha Taylor, 33, and Heather James, 34, plead guilty for their campaign of harassment against people who were associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences. The trio published a newsletter that was distributed to 5,000 to 10,000 people that listed the names, phone numbers and addresses of individuals. The newsletter urged people to falsely order products to be delivered to targets in order to harm their credit rating. They also advocated phone blockades against banks, letter campaigns directed at individuals and other actions.

At their sentencing, Judge Zoe Smith told the three that, “The effect was to cause stress and strain. Witnesses have spoken of feeling violated and frightened and ill and it is clear you were aware of the effect and the stress they suffered.”

But the BioIndustry Association is warning that activists will get the message that they will be let off easy for such violations after it was revealed that Avery and James were released early a few weeks ago. According to The Financial Times they were ordered to wear electronic tags and not talk to the press.

New legislation has been enacted in Great Britain, but BioIndustry Association deputy chief executive Aisling Burnand told The Financial Times, “It is too early to say if it was enough. Seven people have been put behind bars and there is a feeling the campaign has run out of steam, but that could change.”

The Financial Times quoted SHAC as saying that the idea that their campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences had lost steam was “rubbish.” The Times quoted SHAC as saying,

We have been targeting financial backers of HLS, not just the pharmaceuticals companies. That is the only reason we’re less visible to the industry. They’ll never stop us. We’ll get worse and worse.

Well, at least the last sentence there is certainly true.


Drug companies warn of animal rights protests. David Firn and Patrick Jenkins, The Financial Times (London), April 23, 2002.

Three SHAC Activists Plead Guilty to Harassing HLS Employees

Three British animal rights activists who helped coordinate a campaign of harassment against employees and shareholders of Huntingdon Life Sciences were recently sentenced to 6 months in jail followed by 6 months probation after pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to incite a public nuisance.

Greg Avery, 35, Natasha Taylor, 33, and Heather James, 34, plead guilty just a few days before a trial on the charges was to begin. The three worked on behalf of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty and produced several newsletters that were distributed to 5,000 to 10,000 people.

The newsletters published telephone numbers and addresses of people associated with HLS, and urged people to arrange to order unwanted goods to be delivered to people’s homes in order to harm their credit rating. They also urged phone blockades against banks and a persistent letter campaign directed at employees.

Some targets of the harassment campaign were receiving 10-20 letters a day and spending considerable time returning unwanted packages. As prosecutor John Farmer said, “It is the sheer persistence of it again and again — the deadening effect on their lives of these shoals of letters coming through time and time again so in the end they did not bother to open them.”

During sentencing of the three, Judge Zoe Smith agreed, saying,

Through your newsletter, you advocated and encouraged a campaign of harassments against employees, shareholders and financial backers of Huntingdon Life Sciences.

You orchestrated a campaign against shareholders and workers in their own homes. The language used at times in your newsletter was strong, referring to employees ‘Lets smash them.’

The effect was to cause stress and strain. Witnesses have spoken of feeling violated and frightened and ill and it is clear you were aware of the effect and the stress they suffered.

Meanwhile, SHAC tried to spin the guilty pleas and jail sentences as a victory for anti-HLS activists. According to a SHAC press release,

The trial for 3 the SHAC volunteers ended quietly yesterday leaving HLS completely gutted. HLS had hoped to make a show trial out of the testimonies of its pathetic employees and then claim victory in what was hoped to excessively long sentencing. Much to the lab’s dismay, the three campaigners took a deal — pleading guilty to the charge of Conspiracy to Cause a Public Nuisance, and each received a sentence of 12 months in prison.

This means they only have to serve six months in jail, and taking tagging and the time they spent on remand over a year ago into account, they could all be out in a little over three months time. Not bad, considering the police (who wasted millions of pounds and countless hours of work on this pitiful case) and HLS had been pushing for, and banking on, custodial sentences of not less than 5 years.

Hey, we can only hope that more SHAC activists thwart HLS by pleading guilty to charges of criminal conspiracy!

For its part, HLS released a statement saying that the guilty pleas and sentencing was “not only a good day for biomedical research and the public who benefit from this research, but also for law and order in the UK.”


Animal Rights Activists Jailed for Nuisance Mail Campaign. Emily Pennink, PA News, November 14, 2001.

Huntingdon animal rights activists jailed. Financial Times, November 15, 2001.

Animal rights trio jailed for attacks on lab workers staff. Jason Bennetto, November 15, 2001.

Animal rights trio jailed for campaign. The Scotsman, November 15, 2001.

Animal rights activist jailed for harassment. Adam Fresco, The Times (London), November 15, 2001.

Huntingdon Life Sciences Media Statement. November 14, 2001

HLS / police fail with their show trial against 3 SHAC volunteers!. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, Press Release, November 15, 2001.

Animal Rights Terrorism Accelerates in the UK

Yesterday I wrote about animal activists in the United States targeting facilities owned by Huntingdon Life Sciences, a laboratory company that specializes in Phase I safety and toxicity studies of new drugs. In this country the actions against HLS have taken the form of abusive phone calls and picketing. In Great Britain, where the campaign against HLS began, it has degenerated into the worst sort of terrorism that is prompting the nominally pro-animal rights Labor government to seek expanded police powers to stop it.

On Monday, August 28, 2000, fire bombs exploded under the cars of five employees of an HLS research facilities in Cambridgeshire. In at least one case the fire spread and damaged a nearby home where people were sleeping. This was the culmination of a year long campaign of harassment, including death threats, against HLS employees in the UK.

In the wake of the latest bombings, Home Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC that,

We are looking at whether there are changes in legislation that we can take which are being sought by the police to see whether we can strengthen action against these animal rights extremists. The action they have been taking against employees and directors of life science companies has been absolutely preposterous. It is terrible what has happened to some of those employees. These are law abiding people doing a job on behalf of the rest of is. It is worth bearing in mind that many of us ourselves would not be able to lead healthy lives were it not for the pharmaceutical companies being able to test their drugs on animals.

The London Daily Mail did an excellent, if horrifying profile of animal rights activists Greg Avery and Heather James who are the main organizers of the anti-HLS campaign. Avery and James glean the names and addresses of researchers and then publish that information to other animal rights activists. Those who have their names and addresses published can expect a wave of death threats and the risk of physical violence as the five car bombings demonstrated.

The Times UK highlighted the sort of calls researchers receive when it published examples from calls made to HLS by activists. The entire list is worth repeating:

If I saw you in the street, I would stab you in the face

You f—— bitch, you f—— animal torturer, you animal abuser, you f—– bitch.

I hope you get cancer. I hope you get f—— murdered on the way home from work today

To drive the threat of physical violence home, after the recent car bombings somebody sent a circular to HLS staff members homes that read:

Just in case you do not listen to the radio/TV, 14 ‘devices’ were found in Oxford yesterday. The police have ruled out the IRA and believe it to be the Animal Liberation – wonder who they were for and wonder also whether 14 is the total number. Personally I am against violence, especially since innocent people/creatures/are sometimes hurt. Unfortunately other people do not share my view. PS: A question for you — people say your ‘company’ is going down — the question is will you go ‘up’ before it does.

One of the major reasons animal rights terrorism is drawing renewed interest from authorities in the UK is reports that extremist racist groups are beginning to join animal rights organizations and protests. Some neo-Nazi groups in Europe apparently subscribe to Adolf Hitler’s odd dietary views and of course are all for animal rights attacks on things like kosher slaughter of animals. The activists, of course, can’t imagine for the life of them how violent fascists would be attracted to their movement, which just shows how far removed from reality they are. Engage in violence and soon enough you’ll attract those who advocate violent solutions.

The real upshot of this is that although it is nice of the Labor government to finally notice the severity of the problem it has on its hands, in many respects it is directly responsible for the current state of affairs. Straw can say that pharmaceutical companies save our lives all he wants, but when it counted — during the last election cycle — the Labor Party explicitly legitimized the views of radical animal rights activists and promised it would move swiftly to look at banning all animal testing in the UK.

Either Labor was outright lying or simply ignorant (or based on their other actions in power, both), but it never followed through on its promises and now, after spending all this time appeasing radical extremists, it is shocked when they take matters into their own hands.

Along with changes in the law, the Labor Party owes an apology to the research community for encouraging this nonsense in the first place.


Neo-nazis join animal rights groups. Daniel Foggo, The Daily Telegraph (UK), September 3, 2000.

UK to protect biotech researchers, labs against protestors. Reuters, September 1, 2000.

Animal rights extremists targeted. The BBC, August 30, 2000.

‘You torturer, I hope you get cancer’. The Times UK, September 5, 2000.

Zealots of the animal rights pack revealed. Gordon Rayner, Daily Mail (London), September 2, 2000.

Firebomb terror of animal research scientist. Valerie Elliott, The Times (UK), September 5, 2000.