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Novartis boss hits back at activists

11th August 2009, Comments0 comments

Daniel Vasella says he is being protected from 'terrorist' animal campaigners.

Geneva -- The head of Swiss drugmaker Novartis said Sunday that everything necessary was being done to protect him and his staff from escalating attacks by animal rights activists he described as "terrorists".

"How far must we go before we talk about terrorism? For me, it is terrorism to propagate fear, to put targeted people under pressure with all possible, and in particular illegal, methods," Daniel Vasella told newspaper Blick am Sonntag in an interview published Sunday.

Vasella's Austrian holiday home was set on fire on 4 August in an arson attack claimed by a group called Militant Forces against Huntingdon Life Science Austria. Vasella was absent at the time.

The group had warned that it would attack Vasella's "private life wherever possible" unless Novartis cut all ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a animal-testing laboratory which provides testing services to the pharmaceutical and chemical industries.

Huntingdon Life Sciences has become a focal point for activists against animal experimentation.

Novartis meanwhile claimed that another group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), was responsible for the arson.

SHAC, which campaigns against animal testing, is believed to have been responsible for damaging Vasella's mother's tomb in early August in the eastern Swiss town of Chur.

They also burned company cars and destroyed a Novartis sports facility in eastern France.

"SHAC is organised in cells like all terrorist organisations," said Vasella.

He admitted his life has been "changed markedly" by the attacks, and that his company is doing "everything that is necessary" to protect him and his staff from the activists.

He said he was not afraid of the group, however.

"Fear is the wrong word. Cautious, yes, but fear, no," he said.

Vasella said Novartis has not worked with Huntingdon "for a long time" but he noted that animal testing remains necessary.

"We are required by law to determine the safety of medications by conducting animal testing," he said.

"No one likes animal testing. The ways and means through which the testing is done must conform to the highest standards."

Novartis spokesman Eric Althof told AFP that there has been "an escalation (in such attacks) since the end of last year."

At least two other Novartis management board members have been targeted by animal extremists, another Swiss newspaper Sonntag reported.

The house and car of one of these management board members, Ulrich Lehner, was vandalised, it said.

Swiss media also reported that militant animal activists are recruiting members in Switzerland, with an event held in February 2009 and another in May 2008.

AFP / Expatica

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