shac_20091Seven members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) were sentenced today in the UK for their six-year campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).


Heather Nicholson was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Greg and Natasha Avery received nine-year sentences. Daniel Amos received a four-year sentence, Gavin Medd-Hall was sentenced to eight years and Gerrah Selby and Daniel Wadham got four and five years respectively.


The seven were found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail by Winchester Crown Court, in southern England, last month. Trevor Holmes, another SHAC activist, had been cleared in the case.


Greg and Heather started SHAC in 1999 after undercover video footage taken by PETA inside an HLS lab was aired on British television. The footage showed staff shaking, punching, shouting and laughing at beagles. The HLS employees were dismissed and prosecuted, and HLS’s license to perform animal experiments was revoked for six months.


HLS, now Europe’s largest commercial animal-testing lab, conducts tests on about 75,000 animals every year, including beagles, rats, rabbits, pigs and primates (marmosets, macaques, and wild-caught baboons). These animals are killed in a variety of experiments for food additives, cosmetics, artificial sweeteners, pesticides, paints, dyes and other household products. HLS also uses animals in drug research.


SHAC campaigns against customers who provide HLS with an income and profits, as well as suppliers who provide HLS with vital tools to carry out research. They also target financial links, such as shareholders, market makers and banking facilities. SHAC has called for a mass boycott of HLS and is asking all companies doing business with Huntingdon to denounce on animal cruelty.


Previous SHAC campaigns closed down a dog breeder who supplied beagles for vivisection, a cat farm that sold kittens as young as 10 days old to laboratories worldwide, a farm that sold primates for experiments and a breeder who supplied rabbits to the vivisection industry.


“I hope today’s sentences send a strong message that, in a democratic society, campaigning needs to remain lawful, and that those who cross the line into extremist activity will be brought to justice,” said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Robbins, who led the investigation into SHAC.


In 2006, six SHAC activists were convicted and sent to jail in the U.S. on “animal enterprise terrorism” charges, which amounted to running a Web site. The site listed the home and work addresses for those doing business with HLS.


A movie about SHAC is currently in production.