one green planet
one green planet

There are people who stand to profit from weaker regulations in the lab, and one of these is the largest animal testing facility in the UK — Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is the largest Contract Research Organisation (CRO) in the UK, with two laboratories in the UK and one in the United States. HLS tests medicines, chemicals, and agricultural chemicals such as pesticides and weed killers on animals. The company’s 2008 Annual Report showed that the company had revenues of $242 million. Nearly every major pharmaceutical firm in the world is listed amongst its clients, and according to the prominent campaign body Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the three main customers to HLS are AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer, closely followed by Bayer, Sanofi Aventis, Schering Plough (Merck) and Syngenta.

SHAC states that Huntingdon Life Sciences tests medical and non-medical substances on around 75,000 animals every year, including primates. Video footage shot covertly inside HLS in 1997 by PETA showed staff members abusing animals. The footage was aired onChannel 4 in the UK and the employees were prosecuted, and HLS’s animal testing licence revoked for six months, but in the end HLS got its own way; PETA stopped its campaign against the company after HLS threatened the organization with legal action. In the US, Huntingdon Life Sciences obtained a gagging order that prevents PETA from publicising or talking about any of the information that they discovered about HLS in their investigative work. The order also prevented PETA from communicating with the American Department of Agriculture when it was investigating animal abuse at HLS.

Undercover investigations by members of Animal rights organisations have also found that shareholders that invest in Huntingdon Life Sciences include big investment bankers like Phillips and Drew, and the beneficiaries – the people they were investing for, are usually big pension funds. Greg Avery, who is currently serving a nine-year jail sentence because of a SHAC campaign, reported to The Guardian newspaper that the beneficiaries of HLS included ‘the Labour party pension fund, and those of Camden Council, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Rolls-Royce and Rover.’

Banks were also found to be involved in the money side of things. HLS was found to have taken a £24.5m loan from NatWest Bank, which was owned by The Royal Bank of Scotland. After much high-profile mass protest and non violent direct action, Animal rights activists convinced RBS not to renew the loan. Stephens Investment Bank, based in Arkansas, USA, attempted to loan to HLS instead but it also withdrew after pressure from American SHAC demonstrators.

Avery provides sufficient evidence, then, to state that CROs like Huntingdon Life Sciences are behind the continued and unnecessary practices of animal testing and research, with the Support of other large corporations and the UK government. When and whether the truth will filter into the public mindset remains to be seen, as Blair’s war on Animal rights activists is still at large in the general public’s thinking today. As Brigitte Bardot, celebrated actress and founder of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation for the Welfare and Protection of Animals once said, ‘It is money that rules this world and leads to the worst possible atrocities’. It’s a statement that sadly rings too true when it comes to animal testing.

If you want to find out more or get involved with the campaign against animal testing, contact Stop Huntingdon Life Sciences, The RSPCA, or PETA.

Image Source: Hans Gerwitz/Flickr