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SHAC v HLS
by uk lab animal
Friday Dec 26th, 2008 11:15 PM
4 peaceful animal rights campaigners have today (23.12.2008) been convicted of serious offences. Most journalists like to avoid reporting the real issues and the truth regarding the SHAC campaign. Read on for an alternative to the crap that you'll read elsewhere.
SHAC v HLS
Huntingdon Life Sciences are in the business of poisoning healthy animals to death. They are a contract testing operation that tests products for others. They have three sites; two in the UK and one in the US. Five hundred animals are put to death every day by HLS. Every one is an individual with a heart beat. To decent people every killing is morally repugnant.
Each year HLS kill tens of thousands of horses, cats, dogs, primates, rabbits, hamsters, rats, mice and fish amongst others. None of these species bears any resemblance to human beings in either their visual make up or their DNA. The DNA discrepancies are crucial.
HLS hit the headlines in 1997 when they were exposed by an undercover worker with a hidden camera. This expose was screened on national TV and showed workers screaming abuse at terrified beagle dogs. One is filmed punching a puppy in the face in anger! The outcry that followed rocked the foundations of this once profitable company as the public made their objections felt. HLS shares were devastated and never recovered. Today HLS are unable to trade in more than 1% of their shares. This is a very, very sick company.
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) is a public pressure campaign that grew out of the prime time exposure of HLS into a supremely efficient and imaginative global initiative. Using a variety of tactics intended to draw public attention and hamper operations such as mass protests, home demonstrations, leaflet drops, lock-ons, blockades and email floods SHAC has brought HLS to its knees. The informed public finds the business of HLS repulsive and will not allow them to regain their feet.
HLS have been exposed to the public time and time again. On each occasion a very familiar story comes out. The only logical conclusion is that HLS is rotten to the core. It is in the public domain that HLS workers have falsifying test results, include known sex offenders, have carried out tests while drunk, have been found guilty of animal cruelty and of using drugs. From 1995 to 2000 HLS broke the Good Laboratory Guidelines no less than 520 times in just one experiment! In 2004 The Observer exposed HLS for gassing beagle dogs to test a CFC chemical which was banned 15 years earlier. HLS is a very leaky secret.
Government legislation and public money has come thick and fast to ensure this distasteful scientifically unproven commercial concern continues unhindered by the progress of public opinion. High Court injunctions restrict public protest to a few hours a week at the gates of HLS. The company no longer owns its property but is reduced to leasing it back from those it sold out to. HLS has the Bank of England to sign its cheques because none of the High Street banks will provide banking services. The UK tax payer is also funding HLS' insurance and for the police to spend vast resources on harassing citizens who speak out against this abhorrent business.
It should be worthy of note that an estimated 10,000 people die prematurely in the UK each year due to being given drugs that have been tested on animals by HLS and others and passed as safe. (1) Ten thousand human fatalities! In the US the number is estimated to be in excess of 100,000 with a further 2.2 million hospitalisations due to adverse drug reactions. (2)* *Animal tested drugs are the fourth biggest cause of death in the West after heart disease cancer and stroke. This is a scandal.
Vioxx alone has caused in excess of 100,000 deaths worldwide! SHAC activists have been persecuted relentlessly by the agents of government yet have hurt no one. SHAC activists are at work in many countries today and pledge to continue in their clearly defined, well advanced agenda to close down HLS.
Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery, Dan Amos, Heather Nicholson, Gerrah Selby, Gavin Medd- Hall and Dan Wadham and all others accused in this witch hunt are guilty of the highest level of compassion. They have given their all to save the lives of others and expose the inbuilt failings of animal experimentation. They are human beings of the future. Prison and the threat of prison will not stop decent people from doing what is right.
The use of further draconian laws to harass, detain and imprison animal advocates as threatened by Elizabeth Windsor in her latest annual speech will not right the many wrongs inside HLS and the wider drugs industry, nor will it remove the desire in the hearts of good men and women young and old to rid society of this cancer that consumes so many lives.
These law makers and those who remain silent during this onslaught against human freedom and animal rights will come to learn that there is no legislation can hold back human evolution. Animal testing is an ancient theory that has never been tested scientifically. Animals are dying. People are dying. Huntingdon Life Sciences is dying. The Animal Liberation Movement is alive and thriving.
Further information is available at http://www.shac.net
Or call 0845 458 0630
(1) Safe Medicines Campaign http://www.curedisease.net/
(2) Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine http://www.pcrm.org/
Corporate Watch on SHAC Trial - State Repression of Anti-Corporate Dissent
by via Corporate Watch
Friday Dec 26th, 2008 11:30 PM
State repression of Anti-Corporate Dissent: Animal right activists convicted of 'conspiracy to blackmail'
On December 23rd, 4 out of 5 activists on trial at Winchester Crown Court [UK] were found guilty of 'Conspiracy to Blackmail' after a 3 and a half month long show trial. The world's media, prompted by police press officers, were quick to condemn activists by pointing to harassment against the employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and their customers, shareholders and investors. Actions against HLS, not linked to those convicted, such as hoax bombs, letters alleging paedophilia, and threats were pointed to as evidence of the defendants' extremism. Police spokesmen and the National Extremist Coordination Unit (NETCU), the branch of the police set up to deal with the AR movement and other expressions of the public's dissent, hailed the convictions as a victory.
What was not examined in the media was the worrying development of the repressive use of the law which lead to the conviction of the four defendants.
Corporate Watch has followed the progress of the trial at Winchester since the beginning. The reason we were concerned about the trial is that we see it as part of a larger attack on the animal rights movement motivated by the state's desire to protect private corporations against dissent. Since the animal rights movement began to effectively challenge the profits of those involved in vivisection and the pharmaceutical industry the state has repeatedly responded with new repressive measures. In May this year Sean Kirtley, an activist involved with Stop Sequani Animal Torture (SSAT), was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for updating a website with news about a legal, nonviolent campaign to close down Sequani laboratories in Ledbury. Kirtley was convicted of 'Conspiracy to interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research facility under section 145 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act' (SOCPA 145) . His only crime was to protest lawfully against the lab and to update a website.
NETCU, however, was not satisfied with seeing animal rights activists banged up for four and a half years and chose to charge campaigners associated with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) with 'conspiracy to blackmail', an offence carrying up to 14 years in prison. In May 2007, police arrested 32 people in raids dubbed 'Operation Achilles'. Since then, 15 people have been charged with 'conspiracy' and are being tried in two separate trials, of which this was the first.
The charges relate to six years of concerted campaigning against HLS, the largest contract testing laboratory in Europe. The defendants included people who had been involved in SHAC from the outset. However, two of the defendants, Gerrah Selby and Dan Wadham, had been in their early teens at the beginning of the period concerned and had only been involved for a short time. Wadham was only 17 when his part of the alleged conspiracy allegedly occurred.
SHAC, an international campaign group calling for the closure of HLS, has been painted by the police and the press as a 'criminal organisation' duping members of the public concerned with animal abuse into donating their money to further 'a campaign of blackmail'. SHAC's activities, however, have been overwhelmingly lawful: the campaign publishes information about animal abuse inside HLS labs, reports campaigning activities and issues action alerts calling on supporters to write polite letters to companies working with HLS and ask them to desist. If those companies continue to do business with HLS, protests would usually follow. All material on the SHAC website is checked by a barrister and police are given prior notice of their demonstrations.
Customers, suppliers and shareholders in HLS have also been the subject of some direct action. Slogans have been daubed at company premises and employees homes; cars have been paint-strippered; hoax bombs have been sent and employees have been accused of being paedophiles. However, these actions are not directly linked to the SHAC campaign and have only tenuous links to the defendants, whose faces were splashed across many tabloid front pages after their convictions at Winchester.
During the summer, three defendants, committed campaigners against HLS, plead guilty to charges of 'conspiracy to blackmail'. During the trial, evidence recovered from the campaign PCs and activists' personal computers was presented. Police had found many documents believed to have been permanently deleted or shredded by their authors. This included a spreadsheet detailing names and addresses of people working for companies linked to HLS, details of direct actions carried out against them and a document containing a private chat between activists apparently talking about direct action. This evidence may suggest that some activists had decided to take direct action against companies linked to HLS, but the evidence linking the defendants found guilty on 23rd December to these documents was circumstantial and, in some cases, non-existent. Even if some activists linked to SHAC did decide to take direct action, this does not make everybody associated with the campaign guilty by association. The prosecution case was that the entire SHAC campaign was aimed at closing down HLS, which is true, and that SHAC campaigners attempted to persuade companies not to work with HLS, which is also true. The prosecution argument, however, went on to imply that, when companies did not agree to cease trading with HLS, they were the subject of direct action. Often direct action did occur but this was not under the banner of SHAC. Moreover, SHAC did not publish any information about companies that was not already in the public domain. But because some activists, sometimes under the banner of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), did take direct action, the prosecution argued that the SHAC campaign was facilitating direct action and giving it its tacit appoval. The police went one step further and said SHAC and the ALF were one and the same thing!
Much of the evidence in the three-month trial was in relation to lawful demonstrations against companies linked to HLS. This was particularly important in the instances of defendants who could not be linked to the uncovered computer evidence. In several cases, the only evidence was what they had said at demonstrations. Comments made by defendants during protests in earshot of the police were portrayed as linking them to the 'conspiracy'. Comments, such as "we know where you live", were taken as proof that defendants were party to the conspiracy. In any other context, such spur-of-the-moment comments would have, at most, lead to minor charges in the Magistrate's Court. Equally important was the fact that some of those convicted were linked personally to the defendants who pleaded guilty. Heather Nicholson and Gerrah Selby had both shared houses with them. This was obviously a factor in finding them guilty by association.
So what does this mean for free speech and anti-corporate dissent in the UK? By the same logic, an anti-war campaign that publishes information on the whereabouts of a military base or arms factory and calls for its closure could be put in the frame for the same crime if that base was then the subject of an arson attack. All it would take would be for the police to imply that the people running the public campaign are linked to those involved in direct action. Consequently, campaigners might feel compelled to publicly distance themselves from acts of direct action lest they find that, unbeknown to them, those responsible for the covert actions are involved in public action too and the whole movement is charged with 'conspiracy'. In fact, the use of such charges is a classic police tactic aimed at spreading paranoia and convicting as many activists as possible for acts carried out by only a few. The aim is also to minimise public support for illegal actions by harrassing and criminalising those who speak up in solidarity.
NETCU have already intimated, for example in the recent Mark Townsend article on 'eco-terrorists', that environmental or anti-gm protesters might be their next target.
The convicted activists are now facing long periods in jail; they will be sentenced on January 19th. Heather Nicholson, who was remanded after her arrest in May 2007, has already spent over 19 months in jail, longer than some convicted of serious assaults or sex crimes would spend in prison. In May this year, Sean Kirtley, who was imprisoned for his role in another animal rights campaign, was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on the same day that men who beat a man until he was blind received two years. Since 'Operation Achilles', the police have been patting themselves on the back for putting the animal rights movement into 'disarray'. A NETCU source told the Observer in November 2008 that the animal rights movement's 'ringleaders' had 'either been prosecuted or were awaiting prosecution.' One may suspect that comments like these are more to do with maintaining NETCU's funding than reality.
In fact the attack on animal rights campaigners does not seem to have limited their capacity to take action. Regular demonstrations are still taking place against companies linked to HLS, with one planned for 29th December. The ALF, which does not seem to be in need of 'leaders', has recently freed 70 turkeys from a UK farm. If anything, the global animal rights movement seems to be growing steadily.
The decision to try these campaigners for 'conspiracy to blackmail' was evidently a political one. Huge amounts of police resources have been poured into this prosecution, and others like it, at the behest of the Labour government. This is due to the effectiveness of the animal rights movement in confronting and challenging the power of corporations involved in animal abuse. The demonisation of animal rights campaigners in the media, facilitated by NETCU press releases, only makes it easier for the state to repress them without public outcry. The conviction of the defendants at Winchester is yet another nail in the coffin of the public's right to voice their anger and dissent against corporate crime.
For more info see Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty - http://www.shac.net
NETCU Watch - http://netcu.wordpress.com/
SCHnews - http://www.schnews.org.uk