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The BBC's Helen Callaghan
"The company still faces the prospect of continuing protests"
 real 56k

Brian Cass, MD, Huntingdon Life Sciences
"It's a great day for Huntingdon and we're absolutely delighted"
 real 56k

The BBC's John Humphrys
"There was nobody in Britain ... prepared to stand up and say yes will help this company out"
 real 28k

Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 09:38 GMT
Drug testing lab saved
Demonstration outside Royal Bank of Scotland
Protesters picketed the Royal Bank of Scotland
The drug testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) has been saved from closure by a mystery American backer.

A deal struck late on Friday means the Royal Bank of Scotland will sever its links with the company and be replaced by an unnamed US financial group.

But animal rights protesters have warned that they will track down the new investors and put pressure on them to pull out.

We will target anybody involved with the Huntingdon Life Sciences

Greg Avery
Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty Group
The government has welcomed the deal, saying it safeguards the company's future and 1,100 jobs in the UK.

It says HLS has a critical role in medical research and in developing new treatments for diseases like Aids, Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease and Parkinson's.

But protesters, who have already targeted HLS, the Royal Bank of Scotland and key investors, remain determined to shut down the Cambridgeshire research firm.

Greg Avery, spokesman for the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty Group, said: "There are lots of tactics we haven't even started using yet.

"We started to target the company a year ago.

"We estimated then that it would take three years to shut them down. We are only a third of a way into that.

HLS protester
A protester during an anti-HLS demonstration
"We will target anybody involved with the Huntingdon Life Sciences," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"If this American company thinks it can stay hidden, they must be mad."

Under the new deal, the company has been given until 30 June 2006 to repay a 22.6m loan.

'Tremendous news'

HLS directors said the deal had guaranteed the company's financial future for at least a year, and probably saved it from receivership.

Managing director Brian Cass said: "This is tremendous news for all stakeholders in our company.

"Our work is crucial as we help our customers develop safe new products which improve quality of life and protect both man and the environment."

We've all got to wake up to the fact that animal research remains absolutely essential

Lord Hunt
Health Minister
He also called for a change in the law to allow the names and addresses of shareholders and directors to be kept secret in future.

But he added that financial institutions should also stand up to the protesters.

"They have actually given in to this terrorism and therefore encouraged it," he told the BBC.

Health Minister Lord Hunt said the government was determined that animals should only be used in experiments where absolutely justified.

"But we've all got to wake up to the fact that animal research remains absolutely essential to the discovery of medicines as well as the assessment of safety and efficacy of new treatments," he said.

New laws

Home Office Minister Mike O'Brien said the new deal sent out an important message to protesters who "would use violence and intimidation to drive vital research out of the country".

"We are determined to tackle animal rights extremists," he said.

"It is wholly unacceptable for criminal elements, posing as protesters, to attempt to stop legitimate business."

Jack Straw, Home Secretary
Jack Straw: clampdown on extremists
Last week, Home Secretary Jack Straw announced an extra 1m to help Cambridgeshire Police cover the cost of policing the HLS demonstrations.

The government intended to strengthen legislation to deal with animal rights extremists, he said.

Science Minister Lord Sainsbury said the jobs of up to 400 scientists would have gone abroad if the company had closed.

"Some pharmaceutical companies may well subsequently have taken the decision not to do their medical research here but in another country," he added.

Regular target

The HLS site has been a regular target for protests since animal rights campaigners started their action 13 months ago.

Directors and workers have been individually targeted with hate mail, and the homes and cars of some staff have been attacked.

Police had to keep more than 30 activists out of the Royal Bank of Scotland's London headquarters on Friday, as they urged it to call in the loan.

Campaigners had been targeting the bank, intent on persuading customers to close their accounts over its links with HLS.

Investors such as Citibank and HSBC have sold shares in HLS following pressure from animal rights groups.

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19 Jan 01 | Business
Research industry under threat
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