Biotech bombs point to animal group

Company had been targeted by 'SHAC' activists

MSNBC/August 31, 2003
By Miguel Llanos

Two small bombs went off outside one of the nation's largest biotech companies Thursday, an attack thought to be the work of animal rights activists who have become increasingly aggressive in recent months. FBI agents joined the investigation in a case of domestic terrorism that follows attacks on Hummer SUV dealers and a San Diego development that caused $50 million in damage.

The explosives went off outside buildings at Chiron headquarters in Emeryville, Calif. No injuries were reported in the early morning blasts, which blew out windows and caused other minor damage.

Two city streets were largely shut down amid the ongoing police and FBI investigation, and the company's 2,000 employees slowly returned to work.

Earlier Protests

Chiron employees had complained of being harassed by animal rights activists recently over the company's use of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a testing lab that uses animals for experiments. Tactics include rubbish dumped in their yards, slogans spraypainted on sidewalks, and protesters rallying outside their homes.

Chiron spokesman John Gallagher defended the use of animals in testing for human drug products, saying it is required by the Food and Drug Administration.

New Jersey-based Huntingdon has been the target of a four-year campaign waged by a group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC.

A SHAC spokesman said he was unsure if the bombing was related to any animal rights protest. "But it looks like an action that we would support," said spokesman Kevin Jonas.

In a statement on its Web site following the bombings, SHAC denied such attacks on property are terrorism.

"SHAC USA does not support terrorism - neither ideologically nor materially," the statement reads. "It is precisely for this reason that we lend our vocal support (to) acts of property destruction - compassionate acts aimed at combating the daily terrorism committed by Huntingdon Life Sciences without causing harm to any life."

Ecoterror Attacks

The bombings follow recent arson fires apparently set by activists backing environmental causes.

A fire destroyed 20 Hummer and other SUVs at a West Covina, Calif., dealership on Aug. 22. Another 20 vehicles were damaged and a warehouse roof caved in.

An e-mail from the loosely organized Earth Liberation Front, which has its roots with the Animal Liberation Front, claimed responsibility, saying SUVs were helping to destroy the environment.

SUVs at several nearby dealerships were also vandalized.

Three weeks earlier, a $50 million arson fire destroyed a five-story apartment complex under construction in San Diego. ELF supporters are also suspected in that attack. The complex was built in an environmentally sensitive ravine.

Animal Liberation Front activists, for their part, are suspected of being behind the release of 10,000 domesticated mink from a farm outside Seattle last Monday.

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