Some time ago, I wrote that the success of Stop Primate Experiments at Cambridge (Speac) and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) in scuttling the construction of a £32m animal facility at Cambridge, and that their success might well provoke a serious response against them. And, I reported that the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) was getting involved.
Well, it looks like the NAPF is serious. In fact, they've coined the term "investment terrorism" to describe SHAC's tactics:
Friday's protest was just the latest of several in recent months aimed at City institutions which Shac says are stakeholders in Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal testing company that has been a particular target of the group. From first targeting the company and its employees directly, Shac has in recent years shifted its focus to Huntingdon's suppliers and financial backers in a deliberate attempt to hit secondary and even tertiary targets.
The tactics have worked to a large extent: Shac's "successes" include forcing Huntingdon to delist in 2002 after campaigners terrorised its staff and those of companies it did business with. Last year Deloitte & Touche resigned as Huntingdon's auditor after sustained protests from Shac, which printed details of employees' home addresses on its website and visited their homes.
But now the City has decided to fight back. The influential National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), whose members control 20 per cent of the shares on the London stock market, is planning a series of meetings with the Home Office, the Corporation of London and other City institutions to formulate a plan to try to prevent a repeat of the campaign of intimidation against Huntingdon.
Executives close to the talks argue that there is a growing belief that the lack of a fightback by institutions over the past few years could undermine people's perception of London as an attractive place to do business.
The NAPF fears that the producers in a number of controversial industries such as armaments could be at risk, as well as companies that are vulnerable to animal rights groups. It wants the City to offer collective protection to individuals and companies targeted by activists. . . .
The key aim, he says, is to ensure that London is "seen as a safe place to do business. Hopefully, we'll see some sort of strategy begin to emerge over the next three to six months." . . .
Another sign of the fresh impetus among companies and institutions to tackle the recent escalation in Shac's protests is the rise in the number of companies taking out injunctions against the group. . . .
But, after several years of being targeted, the biotechnology industry remains cautious about the latest defence. . . .
The industry is pushing the Government to introduce a single piece of legislation so that companies can improve the protection of their employees and stop home visits from protesters.
"It is the secondary and tertiary targeting that is having the effect," she said. "We need a comprehensive defence." (Emphasis added - Ed.)
The secondary and tertiary targeting is devilishly effective, as I noted here.
Part of the NAPF's preliminary thinking is to include a reward of up to £10m to people who inform on "investment terrorists." It'll be interesting to see where this goes, but my sense is that SHAC and other radical, violence-prone AR groups are about to face a real problem. If you're going to poke a bear or a bull, you better have a very long stick.
UPDATE: 4/18/04 Edited for completeness.
UPDATE: 2/6/2005. The NAPF has precipitously reversed course, and has squashed any notion that it might provide substantial funding to oppose AR terrorists.