Animal Extremists Face Travelling Ban

The UK is considering the use of restraining orders to stop the animal rights extremists who have been creating havoc for the pharmaceutical industry from travelling abroad.

The UK is considering the use of restraining orders to stop the animal rights extremists who have been creating havoc for the pharmaceutical industry from travelling abroad.

The powers, to stop the UK "exporting" the problem, would be similar to those that are used to stop football hooligans and may take the form of anti-social behaviour orders.

Britain recently introduced tough new UK legislation that allows animal rights extremists to be prosecuted and jailed for causing economic damage. It was brought in as part of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act to crack down on animal rights extremists who have been terrorising scientists and other workers connected to animal experiments.

Huntingdon Life Sciences, the British-based company which conducts animal testing for pharmaceutical companies, was planning to list on the New York Stock exchange last September but the listing was pulled with no explanation just 45 minutes before its shares were due to begin trading. It is believed that extremists threatened some exchange staff. Last week the events surrounding Huntingdon in New York were the subject of a US senate committee hearing into "eco-terrorism".

The new legislation protects the suppliers and contractors of pharmaceutical companies as well as the companies themselves. The climate of fear created by extremists could be costing the UK £1bn (E1.47bn, $1.8bn), a year in lost investment while companies are having to pay tens of millions of pounds to guard buildings and staff.

The laws were enacted on 1 July this year. Since then, there have been several arrests and one charge for economic damage. If found guilty, those prosecuted under the act face up to five years in jail.

The success of the legislation has encouraged the government to look at using restraining orders to increase its ability to stamp out extremism.

BioIndustry Association (BIA) chief executive Aisling Burnand told The Business: "We can see the benefit of seeing some form of restraining order to stop these extremists travelling abroad."

Burnand believes the government is starting to win the fight against extremism and that the next year could be a turning point. She says the litmus test will be whether Huntingdon Life Sciences is able to resume functioning as a normal company, with its own banker and market maker.

Huntingdon's general counsel Mark Bibi told last week's Senate hearing it was clear the decision to pull the listing had been influenced by fear of protests by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the animal extremist group. "It was patently clear to me that the only reason the stock exchange postponed our listing was because of concerns about the campaign," he told senators. He said the decision to postpone the company's listing at the last minute had badly affected its stock price.

* The biotech industry and the DTI have joined forces to examine how to improve funding for the sector over fears that UK companies could flee to America, taking the much-vaunted knowledge-based economy with them.

A policy paper setting out potential solutions is due out by Christmas, and will then be discussed by focus groups.

The BIA's Burnand told The Business: "We will be asking if the industry model is broken and whether it needs putting back together into a new model.

"The UK is world class in science. The issue is the amount of capital that the UK and European companies can raise. Companies can raise far more money in the US; we have to improve the environment in the UK," he added.

Seed funding for companies with early-stage products has been identified as one problem area. Burnand would also like to see the creation of a "Nasdaq Europe" so companies have access to the liquidity they require.

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Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News