SHAC group moving in from England?
- NATIONAL NEWS: US is the export target for animal rights militants
By Patrick Jenkins
Financial Times; Aug 14, 2002
The animalrights militants who came near to closing Huntingdon Life
Sciences, the drug-testing group, are proving increasingly adept at
exporting their brand of terror tactics to the US.
When Marsh, the broking arm of Marsh & McLennan, biggest insurance
broker in the world, called recently on security experts to protect
the company from an intensifying campaign on both sides of the
Atlantic, it showed the US establishment was getting worried.
Little wonder. In recent months, activists have lobbied banks about
their choice of customers and fast-food chains about their treatment
"Things have really changed here over the past few years," says
Ingrid Newkirk, the British-born president of one of the biggest US
campaign groups, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "There
are now thousands of activists regularly displaying the public's
outrage at the way companies use animals."
Increasingly, they are using a British protester tactic. Rather than
waving banners and chanting slogans outside their target's offices,
they stage direct - sometimes violent - disruptive action against
secondary organisations, frequently the financial institutions that
underpin the core butt of the protest.
Marsh has been singled out because it is alleged to have brokered
insurance for Huntingdon. Activists have vandalised directors' cars
and thrown bricks through their house windows.
It is three years since Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, began its
campaign after the company was accused of mistreating the animals in
Activism intensified last year, with a baseball bat beating of Brian
Cass, its chief executive, in Britain and threats delivered to
secondary targets - stockbrokers and marketmakers who dealt in
Huntingdon shares and banks who lent the company money.
"We realised HLS needed its customers and all the other companies
that supported it. But those companies didn't need HLS," says Greg
Avery, Shac's chief co-ordinator.
Shac claimed a victory at the end of last year when Huntingdon
relocated its head office to the US, using Maryland's more secretive
company law to protect its directors, shareholders and financial
backers from public disclosure - and, it hoped, from attack.
Instead, protests - now organised on a transatlantic scale -
intensified, orchestrated in the US by Kevin Jonas, an American who
learned his activism in the UK.
Stephens Group, Huntingdon's biggest and most outspoken financial
backer, based in Little Rock, Arkansas, ignominiously withdrew its
support in January. During that offensive, Shac employed another
tactic - "tertiary targeting" - campaigning against Bank of America,
one of Stephens' most important customers.
Frankie Trull, president of the US Foundation for Biomedical
Research, says: "This is a very dangerous precedent to set. I'm
concerned that it's the tip of the proverbial iceberg."
With an estimated 2m-plus animal rights supporters now in the US, Ms
Trull is concerned that corporate America is not prepared for
becoming secondary targets if Shac-style activism is adopted by
bigger protest groups.
"Everyone is quite convinced that it's not going to happen to them.
It's not even hit their radar screens. Yet, from an economic
standpoint, [secondary targeting] is far more dangerous. It is hard
for companies to get their arms around," she says.
Both in the UK and US, elements within the industry are convinced
that the best defence is to be upfront with the public about the
need, both legally and medically, to test drugs on animals.
With big-name support on the activists' side - both Kim Basinger and
Sir Paul McCartney endorse Peta - the establishment will need to
pull out the stops.