This month, forces who oppose scientific research scored a big victory when the New York Stock Exchange dropped its plans to list an animal-research firm, Life Sciences Research, on Sept. 7. A spokesperson confirmed yesterday that the listing was still postponed, and refused to explain why.
Chalk this up as a victory for anti-science terrorists. Their tactics succeeded in chasing Life Sciences Research -- formerly Huntingdon Life Sciences -- from the United Kingdom to the United States in 2002. And they went much further than vandalizing research labs. These extremists also vandalized the property and harassed employees of companies that did business with Huntingdon. When Huntingdon could no longer find a bank, the Bank of England stepped in. The company eventually moved to the United States because of laws that shield shareholder privacy.
On this side of the pond, the "tertiary targeting" -- harassing those who do business with Huntingdon -- has continued. Extremists waged a nasty harassment campaign against Chiron employees and their families because the Emeryville-based company refused to sign a pledge to boycott Huntingdon -- even though it had stopped working with Huntingdon. They even bombed two Chiron buildings. The only good news: No one was injured.
While Chiron, to its undying credit, stood up to the terrorists, a similar campaign against Deloitte & Touche ended with the auditing firm dropping Life Sciences as a client. Now, like the parricide who asks for mercy because he is an orphan, a website committed to shutting down Life Sciences complains that the company won't disclose the identity of the new auditors: "How does this fit with a transparent stock exchange? Well, the plain fact of the matter is that it doesn't."
The London Times reported how these tactics may have worked on the New York Stock Exchange, as the extremists boasted that they got to a market maker -- a business that facilitates exchange trades -- by vandalizing the market maker's yacht club. I called Carr Securities to ask if the story were true. Carr Securities Chairman Walter Carucci told me he was "tired of this issue" and hung up on me. Be it noted that the company did issue a press release in August that announced it doesn't deal in Life Sciences stock.
So why isn't the NYSE's appeasement a big story? A Nexis search showed no mention of it in The New York Times, even though it has a prominent business section and the harassment hit biggies in the gray lady's hometown. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a brief.
My guess: The extremists are not members of the religious right; instead, these enemies of science hail from the rat-hugging left. They don't tote Bibles -- they join groups like SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and WAR (Win Animal Rights) that oppose medical research on animals, as well as meat-eating.
Allow me to explain why this story is important. First, sick people are less likely to be cured if violent fanatics scare researchers out of business. Second, as Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., wrote in a letter to NYSE President Catherine Kinney, "What happens, then, to the other companies in the same business as LSR that currently trade on the NYSE? Would you not expect activists to pressure the NYSE to delist those companies?"
Third, if these tactics are successful, researchers could leave the country. As Frankie Trull of the Foundation for Biomedical Research said, "If the climate gets tough enough, these companies aren't going out of business, they're going to China," or some other country that would not tolerate these criminal tactics.
Most important: Terrorism should never be a winning strategy. The activists would be a menace if they stuck to harassing medical researchers, but the animal-rights movement is so hate-filled that anonymous activists also harass civilians who are only loosely associated with the research. They don't just go after Wall Street execs, they also pick on paralegals. They don't just harass workers, they also harass their families. Like other terrorists, they apparently figure anyone who is not with them is guilty, and hence deserving of punishment.
To reward their abusive behavior is to reward senseless violence. We wouldn't let zealots do this to people who work in abortion clinics. We shouldn't let them do it to medical researchers.