22 August 2014

Posted by: Tom Holder

Category: Antivivisection & extremism

shac–ends–logo.jpgEarlier this month the animal rights extremist group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) announced that it was ending its long running campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) and shutting down the organisation.

The campaign ran for 15 years, from 1999 to 2014, resulting in dozens of arrests of animal rights extremists across the UK, US and Netherlands; and a string of prison sentences adding up to over a century.


 In 2001, SHAC started an American newsletter. In the first issue they announced that
“The Campaign to shut down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) is fast becoming one of the most significant in animal rights movement’s history.”

They were probably not far wrong. Certainly SHAC’s campaign was the longest targeting a single institution. However, greater police powers granted under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005) allowed a series of arrests that would result in at least 18 British SHAC members going to prison, and a further 6 in the US. Most recently, Debbie Vincent was convicted in April 2014, and two more activists are currently awaiting trial in the Netherlands for criminal activity relating to SHAC.

HLS has certainly had shaky times in the past, but the outlook appears much improved. In May 2014, HLS acquired Harlan Labs, “creating a business that will turnover half a billion pounds”. Through dogged perseverance, HLS had survived the biggest animal rights campaign in history (many companies in the UK have not, for instance the breeders Consort Kennels and Newchurch Guinea Pig Farm) Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research noted;

“It is a testament to the bravery and resilience of a lot of people that SHAC never achieved its aim of closing Huntingdon Life Sciences, despite some horrific crimes against HLS staff and suppliers. We know that the British public is generally supportive of the use of animals in medical research and I am glad that HLS has persevered in carrying out legally-required animal research, such as that mandated in the development of potential new human and veterinary medicines.“

So is SHAC gone for good? Certainly we can hope so, but many of the activists who were involved have been released from prison and some may well still be involved in the animal rights movement. Given that many companies have won injunctions against SHAC and its members, some activists may believe that by closing SHAC they can circumvent these legal protections. In May 2014, AstraZeneca won an injunction preventing SHAC adherents from “entering land owned by AstraZeneca, or the property of its protected employees or from pursuing any course of conduct deemed by a court to amount to harassment of the company’s staff.” One person named, activist Aran Mathai, claimed SHAC had ceased to exist as an entity and denied having any leadership in SHAC – given the success of the injunction, perhaps the formal announcement of closure by SHAC makes more tactical sense. Nonetheless, we should welcome the end of SHAC. We can only hope it is an end to the kinds of activities so many of its members were convicted for.

SHAC in Shackles:

2006 - UK
Joseph Harris – Conspiracy to interfere with a contractual relationship – 3 years
Donald Currie – Arson and possession of explosive substances – 12 years

2006 – US Court Cases (“Shac7”)
Jake Conroy – Conspiracy to cause damage – 4 years
Darius Fulmer - Conspiracy to cause damage – 1 year
Lauren Gazzola - Conspiracy to cause damage – 4 years 4 months
Josh Harper - Conspiracy to cause damage – 3 years
Kevin Kjonaas - Conspiracy to cause damage – 6 years
Andy Stepanian - Conspiracy to cause damage – 3 years 
2008 - UK
Heather Nicholson [SHAC Founder] – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 11 years
Kim Gerrah Selby – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 4 years
Daniel Wadham – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 5 years
Gavin Medd-Hall – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 8 years
Greg Avery [SHAC Founder] – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 9 years
Natasha Avery [SHAC Founder] – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 9 years
Daniel Amos – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 4 years

2010 - UK
Alfie Fitzpatrick – Conspiracy to interfere with a contractual relationship – 1 year suspended sentence
Tom Harris – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 5 years
Jason Mullan – Conspiracy to interfere with a contractual relationship – 3 years
Nicola Tapping – Conspiracy to interfere with a contractual relationship – 1 year 3 months
Nicole Vosper – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 2010 – 1 year 9 months
Sarah Whitehead – Conspiracy to Blackmail - 2010 – 6 years

2011 - UK
Christopher Potter – Conspiracy to commit criminal damage – 1 year suspended sentence
Maria Neal – Conspiracy to commit criminal damage –– 1 year suspended sentence

2014 - UK
Debbie Vincent – Conspiracy to Blackmail – 2014 – 6 years

Last edited: 5 July 2017 17:24