Stalker Law Used against British Animal Rights Activists

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

London ( - Britain's High Court has issued a wide-ranging temporary injunction against animal rights protesters who have used a variety of methods to target a chemical and pharmaceutical testing company.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, a judge prevented protesters from coming within 50 yards of the homes of employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Protesters are also banned from "assaulting, molesting, harassing, pestering, threatening or otherwise interfering with" company employees, their families and anyone "setting out to visit them."

Restrictions were also placed on protests outside the company's headquarters in eastern England. A maximum of 25 protesters will be able to picket the company only once a month.

The injunction was issued against three animal rights groups - Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, the Animal Liberation Front and London Animal Action - and nine individuals. All are prohibited from publishing any identifying information about company employees or their vehicles.

The temporary order, which was granted under a law originally intended to prevent stalking, lasts until a full hearing on May 14.

A company spokesman said Thursday that Huntingdon was pleased with the ruling.

"We went into court with an objective and we got nearly everything we asked for," he said.

"The major part of this is not protests at the site," he said. "In fact the most successful tactic from the protesters' point of view has been home visits, where protesters show up outside the residences of our employees. These tactics are extremely threatening and intimidating."

The spokesman said he hoped the injunction would stop noisy gatherings outside of the homes of employees, but said that "more extreme" types of protest such as property damage and assaults might continue.

Huntingdon Life Sciences became the target of protesters after a 1997 television documentary featuring secret footage from inside the company offices led to two employees pleading guilty to animal cruelty charges.

Since then, activists have used a variety of methods - from peaceful protest to violent tactics - in an attempt to shut down the company and put pressure on other firms that Huntingdon does business with.

Several company employees along with chief executive Brian Cass have been physically assaulted. The company lost the financial backing in Britain in 2001 and was sold to a U.S.-based firm, Life Sciences Research, in a deal backed up by the U.K. government.

Earlier this year, accountancy firm Deloitte & Touche resigned as the company's auditors.\b

This weekend, protesters plan to hold a demonstration in nearby Cambridge. It will be held outside the exclusion zone and therefore will not be affected by the injunction.

A spokeswoman for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) said that the group would continue to protest the company.

"We take it as a complement as to the effectiveness of our campaign the fact that the company has sought this injunction," said spokeswoman Heather James.

James said the group would "work around" the court order.

"At the moment, we're focused on the customers of Huntingdon," she said. "The injunction doesn't affect our main focus."

She said that while SHAC doesn't encourage violence and property crime, "thank goodness there's someone who is prepared to take action against Huntingdon."

"Those people (Huntingdon employees) have a choice, while the animals have no choice at all," she said.

The campaign has broadened to include Huntingdon offices and customers in the United States, Japan and other countries. A SHAC activist was reportedly arrested in Japan this week on suspicion of stealing a videotape on animal experiments from Osaka University.

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