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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Arsonists target lab staff
Lab rat
Campaigners say that animal testing is cruel
Extremist animal rights campaigners are being blamed for a series of arson attacks on cars belonging to staff of a pharmaceutical firm.

Five vehicles parked outside the homes of employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) were set alight within minutes of each other in the early hours of Monday.

Cambridgeshire police said it was only by luck that no-one was killed or injured.


It is only by sheer luck that we are not beginning a murder investigation today

DCI Tom Hobbs

The laboratories, where experiments on rats, rabbits, dogs and cats are carried out to test products such as new medicines, have long been the target of anti-vivisection groups.

The five cars were set on fire in four streets in the town of Godmanchester, near Huntingdon. A sixth attempt in another street failed.

It is the latest attack against workers at the company, which employs 1,200 people.

In May, four members of staff living in the village of Sawtry had their cars set alight in a midnight attack, and two of the fires spread to houses where children were sleeping.

Hate mail

Two months earlier, another staff member had his car torched, while other employees say they have received hate mail threatening to kill their children.

A spokesman for HLS confirmed all the cars in Monday's attacks belonged to staff members but said they were not all involved in experiments on animals.

"It is extremely fortunate that nobody was hurt or killed. These are people who are performing research to create safe new medicines to protect both man and the environment," he said.

'Propaganda'

"We don't know exactly why these people were targeted but we do know that some of their names and addresses have been included in campaign propaganda written against us.

"The government insists that such experiments take place. This is the treatment they get for their work," he added.

Detective Chief Inspector Tom Hobbs, of Cambridgeshire Police, said: "This is the second spate of arsons on cars belonging to people connected with HLS.

"It is only by sheer luck that we are not beginning a murder investigation today."

He added:"We must stop these arsonists before they strike again."

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See also:

24 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Labour row over animal tests
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