Sunday. 24 October
Task force put on hold as the City
backs away from confrontation with animal extremists
By Tim Webb
City plans to combat animal rights extremists
who target companies and their employees have stalled as companies and
institutions fear becoming targets themselves.
Plans to form a task force of City grandees
to co-ordinate self-policing initiatives have foundered because of difficulties
in recruiting a chairman. Proposals for a "bounty" fund to pay
for information leading to the arrest of animal rights and other single-interest
group extremists targeting companies and their associates have also yet
to get off the ground.
Beside tougher new laws on the activities
of extremists, City figures have been trying to draw up guidelines on
how to prevent companies and individuals being targeted and how to counter
intimidation tactics. While informal talks are continuing on these issues,
City sources say that many institutions and companies have decided that
dealing with the extremists is a matter best left to the police and to
a new task force with stronger powers.
The National Association of Pension Funds,
which represents pension funds managing more than £600bn, has been
one of the few City organisations to actively seek views on the most effective
response. A spokesman said:
"There have been informal discussions over whether there is an issue,
whether there is likely to be one, and if the answer is yes to both, who
best and how best to address it. But there have been no further developments
Concern over the influence of animal rights
extremists resurfaced earlier this year when construction company Montpellier
cancelled a contract to build an animal testing laboratory for Oxford
University after employees, shareholders and suppliers were targeted by
The grave of an 82-year-old woman whose son-in-law
runs a farm that breeds guinea pigs for medical research was desecrated
earlier this month. Police believe animal rights extremists were responsible.]
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, said
last week that the amendments to legislation proposed in the summer will
be a "real issue in the coming session", suggesting that they
will be included in the Queen's Speech next month.
But the drugs company AstraZeneca also said
last week it was moving some research jobs to the US and Asia, partly
due to the extremists' activities.