- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 20, 2006

LONDON — British animal rights activists are planning to use a training camp next month to export their violent tactics to the European continent and beyond.

The “AR 2006” camp will be held at an undisclosed location on the weekend of June 23 and will feature classes in potentially lethal physical techniques that are described as “self-defense.”

The police National Extremism Technical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU), which investigates animal rights extremism, is aware of the event.

The camp is advertised on animal activist Web sites but police say there is little they can do about what appears to be a private meeting of individuals.

“The UK is the center for this kind of activism,” said a spokesman for the one group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). “Everyone around the world looks to us for inspiration.”

The group has held camps in Britain for the past two years but this is the first where the focus will be on attracting foreign activists who will carry the message of violence around the world.

The SHAC spokesman said that the group would pay to fly people from Russia and Eastern Europe to Britain to learn defense techniques that could be used against security guards at pharmaceutical companies and against hunters.

At previous camps, activists were taught how to deliver punches to key areas of the body and to damage optic nerves by sticking their fingers into adversaries’ eyes.

As well as “self-defense” classes, they are likely to discuss how to conduct mailing campaigns, including targeting shareholders, as in the recent letters sent to GlaxoSmithKline’s investors.

The spokesman said yesterday that the camp had not been a police matter in the past.

However, businessmen are concerned that Britain is becoming the center of a violent, terrorist movement that is beginning to spread overseas.

Brian Cass, the managing director of Huntingdon Life Sciences, the animal testing group, said that activism was becoming a worldwide problem.

“It is disturbing that one of our significant exports at the moment seems to be animal rights activism,” he said.

Mr. Cass’ company has been the focus of much of the anti-vivisectionist movement’s activities in the past few years and he has been threatened and attacked with a baseball bat.

His comments echoed those of Jean-Pierre Garnier, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline, who said last week that inward investment to Britain was being marred by violent activists.

The SHAC spokesman said participants at the camp would not discuss anything illegal, although reporters and photographers would be banned from the site.

Recent campaigns have brought the animal rights issue to the political forefront, with Prime Minister Tony Blair pledging to sign the People’s Petition against extremism, established by the Coalition for Medical Progress.

Huntingdon Life Sciences has been forced to move its stock listing abroad after shareholders were targeted, while banks and insurers have refused to work with the company after repeated threats.

The company now banks with the Bank of England as a “lender of last resort.”

Earlier this month, a British court sentenced three animal rights activists to 12 years in prison and a fourth to four years for a terrorist campaign against an English guinea pig breeder. The activists had dug up the grave of the breeder’s mother-in-law and stolen her remains.

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