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Cass demands crackdown on Animal Rights activists


A tough new crackdown on animal rights activists has been demanded by a leading vivisectionist awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Jubilee Birthday Honour’s List.

Brian Cass is the managing director of the controversial research facility Huntingdon Life Sciences, one of Europe’s leading animal testing laboratories that was the subject of a Home Office investigation into malpractice against research animals five years ago.

Mr Cass, 54, who received the honour for services to medical research, says “abuse, intimidation and violence” still occur on a daily basis. He was seriously injured when attacked with pick-axe handles by a masked gang outside his home last year.

“More must be done to protect those targeted by the activists if we wish to see bio-medical research in the UK realise its full potential,” he said.

Writing in the MPs’ own Parliamentary House Magazine, Mr Cass, 54, produced a 10-point plan including making violent campaigns, whose main objective is the demise of a legitimate organisation, illegal. He also wants to make any demonstrations at private residential homes illegal and find ways to control abuse and incitement on the web.

Mr Cass said: “This is a challenging list but it must be resolutely addressed so that UK researchers and their associates no longer have the prospect of intimidation and violence as an everyday part of their lives.”

Abuse

He says his company continues to adopt a policy of openness even when its employees and many other stakeholders are subjected to abuse, intimidation and violence.

HLS, situated in Alconbury, near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, achieved national notoriety when, in early 1997, it was the subject of the TV expose in 1997 when secret footage was filmed of staff abusing Beagles kept there for experimentation. Conservative Home Secretary Michael Howard suspended HLS’ license and ordered an inquiry. However, Mr Howard’s Labour successor Jack Straw endorsed this move, then happily reinstated HLS’ license two months ahead of the November 1997 deadline, set by the Home Office for it to meet 16 conditions to improve operations.

HLS ran into further difficulties two years ago when the Royal Bank of Scotland was set to pull the plug on the beleaguered animal-testing laboratory after receiving threats from animal rights extremists.

Bank chiefs took the decision following clear warnings that the extremists would target bank staff and branches around the country - including those of sister bank Nat West.

Almost all of HLS’ finances had been provided by the Royal Bank of Scotland, in the form of an estimated £22.2 million overdraft facility. Without this facility, HLS faced certain closure, much to the delight of the animal rights group, which had targeted it over the past year.
The bank was so desperate to avoid confrontation with the animal rights activists that they agreed to write off all HLS’ debts for a token payment of £1.

Andrew Baker, the millionaire chairman of HLS furiously denounced the bank for its “cowardice” saying that RBS had “allowed itself to be cowed by a small group of insignificant bullies.”

HLS then announced that it had secured a new loan from an anonymous US source that would fund the company until 2006 - and SHAC have no idea just who is the company’s mystery benefactor.

MD Mr Cass declined to name the new backers at the time, but said: “The money is coming from a group of investors that we have known for some time, who have great confidence in the company. They have confidence in our industry and we are delighted to be further associated with them.

The new deal was also welcomed by health Minister Lord Hunt who said that HLS had played a critical role in medical research and the development of new forms of treatment for illnesses including Alzheimer’s’ AIDS, cancer and heart disease.

The Government’s decision to honour Mr Cass with a CBE prompted a wave of anger from politicians and animal rights activists alike, who branded the move as “unduly provocative” and “Disgusting”.

Liberal Democrats Home Affairs spokesman Norman Baker said: “I’m very surprised. It’s a political statement by the Prime Minister to demonstrate his commitment to science, but it’s probably ill judged and unduly provocative.

“Tony Blair is right to say we must support science but he must recognise that what’s been done at HLS is extremely controversial.”

Greg Avery of the pressure group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) expressed his anger at Mr Cass’s honour, stating that around 180,000 animals a year were killed by HLS.

“It’s disgusting that someone who causes 500 animal deaths every single day should be awarded a CBE.

“It casts a long shadow over people who have been awarded them for good reasons. It’s not Tony Blair’s voice we hear now, but that of the global companies for whom he has become a mouthpiece.”

Strong views

Last year the Prime Minister denounced animal rights terrorists as “totally and utterly beyond the pale” and made a point of declaring his support for HLS. He said: “People are perfectly entitled to their strong views on animal welfare, but I think it would deeply regrettable if we lost any part of the scientific endeavour in this country, and certainly that company [HLS] have out full support in making sure that the actions of these people do not succeed.”

The Government came under fire in 2000 in its link to HLS. Animal rights campaigners accused the Labour Party of double standards by investing its staff pension fund in HLS, which came under fire for cruelty to dogs only three years previously. At the time, the Party held 75,000 shares in Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blythe Valley said, “Now that the Government is aware of this particular investment, I would expect them to pull the (pension fund) money out of Huntingdon.”

Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, who used to be MP for the Huntingdon constituency in which HLS is situated, until the 2001 General Election, supported HLS, until he was forced to act in the wake of the TV exposure in 1997.

As a result of Mr Major’s support, HLS made its first political donation to the Conservative Party in January, donating £1,500. However, the Party denied that it had recommended Mr Cass for the CBE.