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<b>Plan to rein in animal rights protesters</b><br><br> 3/18/03<br><br><br><br>
Violent protests by animal rights activists will be tackled under new laws planned by the government.<br><br><br><br>
The Home Office is understood to be considering tightening the laws further on protests to stop executives and researchers being harassed at their homes.<br><br><br><br>
Bob Ainsworth, a Home Office minister, has held meetings with groups representing biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and scientists to discuss gaps in legislation, the Financial Times has learnt.<br><br><br><br>
Last month, the BioIndustry Association called for measures, based on those already used to prosecute football hooligans, to outlaw any protests aimed at causing legitimate businesses to cease trading - the stated aim of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, a small but well-funded group of anti-vivisectionists.<br><br><br><br>
The Home Office is understood to have ruled out the possibility of unified legislation against animal rights protesters. However, officials denied it was being complacent. "Far from rejecting calls for a further strengthening of the law, we are in discussion with the scientific community and the police to see what more needs to be done," the Home Office said.<br><br><br><br>
A campaign of intimidation orchestrated by Shac has come close to forcing Huntingdon Life Sciences, a drug and chemical testing company, out of business. The government amended the criminal justice and police bill last year. It also tightened up laws on violent protests.<br><br><br><br>
The police and courts have found it difficult to prove a link between the people running Shac and the violent protesters. Shac said that the previous tightening of laws against demonstrations outside individuals' homes had done little to hinder its activities.<br><br><br><br>
There were 62 home visits by activists to directors or employees of companies with links to animal testing in the last quarter of 2002 and 20,000 e-mails, phone calls or text messages w ere received, according to the BioIndustry Association.<br><br><br><br>
Aisling Burnand, chief executive of the BIA, said the legal system was struggling to deal with a group of thugs that publicly denounced violence but in reality was at the centre of a campaign of sinister intimidation. "We need better co-ordination of policing and better co-ordination with the Crown Prosecution Service. We must be able to get convictions," she said.<br><br><br><br>
The three principal co- ordinators of Shac - Greg Avery, Natasha Avery and Heather James - were jailed two years ago for inciting a public nuisance and inciting criminal damage.<br><br><br><br>
Shac has revealed plans to target Japanese chemical companies in an expansion of its campaign against Huntingdon's customers. Shac, which has fought a successful campaign of intimidation against the company's bankers, marketmakers, insurers and auditors in the US and UK, says it has obtained a list of hundreds of drug and chemical testing contracts from a company insider. And in a sign that Shac is preparing to widen its campaign to include other drug-testing companies, it claims to have infiltrated an activist into Covance, a US-listed contract research organisation.<br><br><br><br>
After a successful campaign against Huntingdon's US backers, Shac claims to have raised £20,000 from supporters, specifically to fund the Japanese assault.
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