Huntingdon Life Sciences

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Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is a contract animal-testing company founded in 1952 in England, now with facilities in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and Eye, Suffolk in the UK; New Jersey in the U.S.; and in Japan. The largest such commercial operation in Europe, it conducts tests on around 75,000 animals every year — including rats, rabbits, pigs, dogs, and primates[1] — testing pharmaceutical products, agricultural chemicals, industrial chemicals, and foodstuffs on behalf of private clients worldwide.[2][3][4][5][6]

Huntingdon has been under intense pressure since 1999, when a group of British animal rights activists set up Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), an international campaign to close the company down. The campaign was started after film shot secretly inside Huntingdon, and shown on British television, showed staff punching and laughing at the animals in their care. [7] Since then the company has suffered a severe financial downturn and several of its staff and customers have been subject to direct action that has sometimes been illegal and even violent. However, financial figures released by the company in 2007 report a 5% increase in gross profits, leading managing director Brian Cass to plead to the financial services industry to stop treating Huntingdon as "radioactive".[8]


Originally the company concentrated on nutrition, veterinary and biochemical research. An expansion of services in the late 1950s led to the testing of pharmaceuticals, crop protection products, food additives and a variety of industrial and consumer chemicals. This set the company on its present path to becoming a leading provider of toxicology testing.

HLS's managing director, Brian Cass, was awarded the CBE in 2002 for services to medical research and in May 2003, the company was accredited by the Association For Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care (AAALAC). [9]


A protest march against Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Huntingdon is criticised by animal rights and animal welfare groups for documented instances of animal abuse and for the wide range of substances it tests on animals, particularly non-medical products.

The company's labs have been infiltrated by undercover animal rights activists several times since the 1980s. In 1997, film secretly recorded inside HLS in the UK by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed serious breaches of animal-protection laws, including a beagle puppy being held up by the scruff of the neck and repeatedly punched in the face, and animals being taunted. The investigation led to the company's Home Office licence being revoked in April 1997 for six months. At the time, the company's shares stood at £1.13: within three years they were worth 2.5 pence. Huntingdon officials said that the breaches were isolated cases. [10]

On July 24, 1997, Home Office minister George Howarth told the House of Commons: "Shortcomings relating to the care, treatment and handling of animals, and delegation of health checking to new staff of undetermined competence, demonstrate that the establishment was not appropriately staffed and that animals were not at all times provided with adequate care." According to Zoe Broughton, the activist who filmed the incidents, three of the laboratory technicians responsible were suspended from HLS the day after the film was broadcast on Channel 4 television as "It's a Dog's Life." Two of the men seen hitting and shaking dogs were found guilty under the Animals Act of 1911 of "cruelly terrifying dogs." It was the first time laboratory technicians had been prosecuted for animal cruelty in the UK. [7]

Since then, the company's labs have been accused by animal rights supporters of a similar offence in the United States. In 1998, an undercover investigator for PETA used a camera hidden in her glasses to make 50 hours of videotape of the HLS laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey. She also made four 90-minute audiotapes, photocopied 8,000 company documents, and copied the company's client list. Some of the film she shot showed a monkey being dissected while still alive and, according to PETA, conscious. The president of HLS in New Jersey, Alan Staple, said the monkey was alive but sedated during the dissection. [11]

Huntingdon has been supported by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. A spokesman for Blair told the BBC: "The prime minister is very pro-science in relation to this." [12] The company has argued that if their research is stopped in Britain, it may be moved elsewhere, to a country with less rigorous animal-protection legislation and with a loss of British jobs.

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The Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, (SHAC) campaign is based in the UK and U.S., and aims to close the company down. According to its website, the campaign's methods are restricted to non-violent “direct action”, as well as lobbying and demonstrations. It targets not only HLS itself, but any company, institution, or person doing business with the laboratory, whether as clients, suppliers, or even disposal and cleaning services.

Despite its stated non-violent position, SHAC has been accused of encouraging arson and violent assault. Huntingdon's managing director, Brian Cass, was attacked in February 2001 by three men armed with pickaxe handles and CS gas. [13]. SHAC and Animal Liberation Front activists are known to have been responsible for harassment; trespass; vandalism; and intimidation, with death-threat letters and hoax bomb threats. [14] The Daily Mail cites as an example the sending of 500 letters to the neighbours of a company manager who did business with HLS. The letter warned parents to keep their children away from the man because, it alleged, he had raped the letter writer when she was a child. The police informed all 500 households that the allegations were false. [15]

The results of these actions have sometimes been more serious. Threats have been made against the Chiron corporation which animal rights groups say has connections with Huntingdon. The corporation received an e-mail from a group calling itself "Revolutionary Cells," which said "We gave all of the customers the chance, the choice, to withdraw their business from HLS. Now you all will have to reap what you have sown. All customers and their families are considered legitimate targets." This was followed by two bomb blasts at the corporation's headquarters in Emeryville, California. [16] There is no proven link between Revolutionary Cells and SHAC.

Animal rights supporters have been served with a High Court injunction preventing them from harassing Chiron's UK staff in or around their homes. [17]

In May 2007 32 people were arrested in relation to what police sources described as "an international campaign of fund raising, physical violence and other acts of intimidation against secondary targets connected to Huntingdon Life Sciences including customers, suppliers, shareholders and non-executive directors of other companies."[18]

Effect of campaign

Campaigns against Huntingdon claim to have succeeded in harming the company financially. In 2000, SHAC obtained a list of HLS shareholders, including the names of beneficial owners: anonymous individuals and companies who bought shares in the name of a third party. These included the British Labour Party pension funds, Rover cars, and the London Borough of Camden[citation needed].

The list was passed to the Sunday Telegraph, which published it on December 3, 2000, and several beneficial owners disposed of their shares, including the Labour Party. Two weeks later, an equity stake of 32 million shares was placed on the London Stock Exchange for one penny each and HLS quotes crashed. The Royal Bank of Scotland closed HLS's bank account and the British government arranged for the state-owned Bank of England to give them an account, because no other bank would do business with them. The British Banking Association said "Huntingdon Life Sciences are in a nightmare situation," [19]

On December 21, 2000, HLS was dropped from the New York Stock Exchange because of its share collapse: its market capitalization had fallen below NYSE limits and the NYSE did not accept HLS's revised business plan. [20] On March 29, 2001, Huntingdon lost both of its market makers and its place on the main platform of the London Stock Exchange.

HLS later decided to move its financial centre to the United States to take advantage of stricter U.S. securities laws, which allow greater anonymity for shareholders. It incorporated in Maryland as Life Sciences Research, Inc. and was saved from bankruptcy when its largest shareholder, American investment bank Stephens, Inc, gave the company a $15-million loan. HLS remains in $87.5-million debt, however[citation needed] and, according to SHAC, leaked documents show the company to be financially unstable. [21] On September 7, 2005, the New York stock exchange asked Life Sciences Research/HLS to delay its listing. The company was listed on the junior OTC bulletin board since its move out of the UK. The NYSE offered no reason for the delay, but The Guardian reported it was "after animal rights extremists stepped up their activity in the US". [22] and on February 4, 2006, the company lost its only listed market maker, Legacy Trading. As a result, it could no longer trade on the OTC Bulletin Board. As of December 2006, Life Sciences Research is listed on the NYSE Arca electronic exchange. [23]

On the 4th of June 2006, Dresdner Bank, Huntingdon Life Sciences largest institutional shareholder with 4.7% [1] of the companies shares issued a statement to the effect that they had sold all of their shares after pressure from the SHAC campaign. [2][citation needed]

See also


  1. 2006 APHIS Report for Huntingdon Life Sciences
  2. "A controversial laboratory", BBC News, January 18, 2001.
  3. "New bill clamps down on animal activist activity", Drug Researcher, November 17, 2006.
  4. "From push to shove" Southern Poverty Law Group Intelligence Report, Fall 2002.
  5. "Diaries of despair",, Uncaged Campaigns, retrieved June 18, 2006. A report about the transplanation of pig hearts and kidneys onto the necks, abdomens, and chests of monkeys and baboons captured from the wild. The experiments were carried out by Imutran Ltd, a subsidiary of Novartis Pharma AG, in conjunction with Cambridge University. They took place at Huntingdon Life Sciences. They kill 500 animals every single day at their facilities.
  6. Townsend, Mark. "Exposed: secrets of the animal organ lab", The Observer, April 20, 2003.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Seeing Is Believing – cruelty to dogs at Huntingdon Life Sciences", The Ecologist, March 2001.
  8. Jack, Andrew. Call to resist animal rights threats, Financial Times, September 16, 2007.
  9. Accredited Organisations, Association For Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care, accessed March 6, 2007
  10. A controversial laboratory, BBC News, January 18, 2001.
  11. Kolata, Gina. "Tough Tactics In One Battle Over Animals In the Lab," The New York Times, March 24, 1998.
  12. Pressure builds on animal tests lab, BBC News, January 26, 2001.
  13. Jail for lab boss attacker, BBC News, August 16 2001
  14. Counting the cost of fear, Scotland on Sunday, 9 March 2003
  15. "The Animals of Hatred", Daily Mail, October 15, 2003.
  16. Animal rights 'terror' rattles biotechs' cage, San Francisco Business Times, February 6 2004
  17. Protesters banned at staff homes, BBC News, February 9 2004
  18. Police arrest 32 animal rights activists, Financial Times, May 1 2007
  19. Huntingdon Life Sciences financial report 2002.
  20. Potter, Will. "Green is the New Red", Counterpunch, May 4, 2006.
  21. Analyze This!, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, accessed March 6 2007.
  22. Huntingdon delays listing after attacks, The Guardian, September 8 2005
  23. NYSE Arca electronic exchange

Further reading


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