Animal Protection >
NEWARK, N.J. - The Web site run by Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
offers undercover video of beagles being slapped, force-fed and
otherwise manhandled, allegedly by workers at a research lab that uses
animals to test the safety of drugs and chemicals.
Federal prosecutors say the site did more than present the darker side
of animal testing: They allege it also incited violence against the
testing company, Huntingdon Life Sciences, and its employees.
Both sides are facing off in a courtroom this week, in what the animal
activists call an exercise in free speech and what the government
portrays as domestic terrorism.
Six members of the Philadelphia-based group, which goes by the acronym
SHAC, were arrested in May 2004 and charged with animal enterprise
terrorism, conspiracy and interstate stalking, part of a plan to drive
Huntingdon Life Sciences out of business.
"This is not activism," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said at the
time of the arrests. "This is a group of lawless thugs attacking
innocent men, women and children."
The group makes no apologies for its five-year campaign against the
British-based Huntington, saying it kills 500 animals per day and
vowing to shut it down. Criticizing the company's operations - and
even applauding the illegal actions of others who lash out against it
- is not against the law, said Andrea Lindsay, a spokeswoman for the
"Anything they can pin on the defendants is an act of free speech,"
she said. "The government contends it rises to the level of domestic
terrorism. We say it's free speech."
The group says it never told anyone to break the law or commit illegal
acts. A section of its Web site urging people to call Huntingdon and
companies that deal with it "and ask them to justify their involvement
in animal cruelty" includes a caution that "SHAC does not encourage
repetitive, rude or threatening phone calls and e-mails. Make your