New government committed to continued crackdown
Following the sentencing of six animal rights extremists on Monday, the new government made clear that it remains committed to countering criminal activity carried out in the name of animal rights.
The six were sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison. Because of the crackdown in the last few years, animal rights extremist attacks on animal research are now at a 30-year low.
Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said:
'It is unacceptable that campaigning for animal rights should involve criminal behaviour. The successful prosecution and sentencing of these six animal rights extremists reinforces our commitment that this behaviour will not be tolerated.'
The judge in the case was equally damning of the reign of terror and intimidation by the six, who were part of the SHAC animal rights extremist group. Many SHAC activists are already serving prison sentences following earlier court cases. Judge Keith Cutler said: 'You are not going to prison for expressing your beliefs – you are going to prison because you have committed a serious criminal offence.'
He accused them of using a 'thin veneer' of legitimacy to 'get donations from the public who believed you were a legitimate organisation. Really, you used violence, intimidation and fear to terrify normal businesses who were legitimately trading and in contact with HLS [Huntingdon Life Sciences].'
We hope the negative publicity will dissuade members of the public from donating to extreme animal rights causes.
Some victims of the long campaign of intimidation and criminal damage had no connection whatsoever with the contract research company, the hearing revealed.
Alistair Nisbet from the CPS said outside the court 'Our society supports the right to free speech and to campaign peacefully. But where that behaviour is criminal, regardless of the perceived cause, a prosecution will almost certainly follow and, if convicted, a significant prison sentence.'