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Suspects arrested in Animal Rights probe

ELEVEN PEOPLE suspected of being involved in animal rights extremist activities were arrested in a police operation last week.

Police were unable to say whether the arrests were connected to recent threats made to private shareholders of the drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline but equally did not rule it out.

Europe's biggest drug maker secured a rare High Court injunction last week against an unknown group of animal rights activists, preventing them from publicising names of its shareholders. The move made illegal any attempt by campaigners to carry out their threat, as reported in last week’s OUR DOGS, to publish on a website the names of private investors who refuse to sell their shares in GSK within a fortnight. It is the first time such an injunction has been granted to a company in Britain.

West Mercia Police detained four men and seven women in raids. Arrests were made in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Gloucestershire and the West Midlands, and items were seized from various houses. The 11 were released on bail while the investigation into alleged offences under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which became law last year, continues.

On Monday of last week, GSK was inundated with calls from investors who had received threatening letters from Campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, a previously unheard of group.

Campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences said it was holding GSK accountable to its promise not to use HLS again following the infamous 1998 television documentary ‘Countryside Undercover’ showing workers punching beagle puppies. The letter read: ‘The only way to hold GlaxoSmithKline to its promise is to target its financial vulnerability. We are therefore giving you this opportunity to sell your shares in GSK. Over the next two weeks every shareholder of GSK will be receiving this letter. If you have any doubts over the effectiveness of this action then keep a close eye on the GSK share price and watch it plummet.’

The group reminded investors that this was a tactic used against shareholders in HLS, which saw its share price nosedive and ended up being delisted from the London Stock Exchange and forced to move its headquarters to the US. Last October the New York Stock Exchange blocked an attempt to re-list HLS's parent company.

GSK stressed that it did not use HLS's services while it was under investigation after the damning television documentary. GSK started using HLS again only after it put in new management and was cleared by the Home Office on animal welfare standards. The group uses HLS for toxicology testing of new chemical compounds before they are tested on humans.

GSK said it was ‘greatly concerned’ shareholders were being targeted in this way, but reiterated its continued involvement with HLS.