The battle between drugmakers and animal-rights activists is headed toward a Los Angeles court, where AstraZeneca has filed a lawsuit accusing Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty - and an affiliate called Band of Mercy - of allegedly harassing and terrorizing its employees. And the drugmaker was successful in obtaining a temporary restraining order.
In its lawsuit, AstraZeneca claims the groups have targeted its Los Angeles employees for the past two years because the drugmaker has contracted with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a clinical research organization, to run studies. HLS has long been a target of animal-rights groups and the drugmaker charges SHAC has refused to end its campaign unless "any and all ties" to HLS are severed.
The lawsuit - which was also brought by Aptium Oncology, a chain of outpatient cancer care centers owned by the drugmaker - was filed on the same day that SHAC activists held a protest outside AstraZeneca offices in London, where an attempt at a bomb scare was purportedly made (see here and here). This is the second such lawsuit filed against SHAC this month; the BlackRock3 money manager, which is a large investor in the drugmaker, also filed a complaint recently.
AstraZeneca and its cancer care chain claim that SHAC and Band of Mercy are engaged not only in a "widespread campaign of violence and intimidation against Huntingdon Life Sciences," but also any business "purportedly associated with it, including HLS investors, insurers, child-care providers and lenders." Their lawsuit goes on to say that SHAC has "renounced traditional, lawful, non-violent methods of protest," such as orchestrating bombings, assaults, property damage and threats. The FBI has had SHAC within its sights for several years (see this).
The lawsuit claims that SHAC and its members have demonstrated in front of the homes of several Aptium employees and vandalized one of their homes. In particular, the demonstrators have allegedly appeared at all hours of the day and night at the home of Aptium general counsel Victoria Carrington, and they generally wear masks and hold signs, while shouting "Puppy Murderer!" and "Corporate Scum!," among other things, that can be heard by her children and neighbors.
"Recently, the attacks have escalated. SHAC terrorized two employees' families, pounding on the doors of their homes and shouting threats and invective in the middle of the night. In addition, a SHAC group committed felony vandalism at a third Aptium employee's home while her family (including her young daughters) were asleep, spray-painting threats on her house and (pouring substances over) her car that was parked in her driveway," according to the lawsuit, which adds the car was totaled.
"All of the accusations against the AstraZeneca and Aptium current and former employees (as with those directed at the corporate entities) are patently false. These employees have never tortured or killed any animals. Neither do they exercise any control with respect to HLS animal testing," the lawsuit goes on to say (here is the lawsuit and here is the temporary restraining order). We asked SHAC for a comment and will update you accordingly.