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Defend the Blackmail Three

“The strength of our movement depends on all of us and I hope that you can support us. Most of all keep fighting and be proud to be a compassionate person!” Debbie , Blackmail 3 defendant

The state-sponsored crackdown on animal rights activists continues next month, with the opening of the third 'conspiracy to blackmail' trial relating to vivisection giants Huntingdon Life Sciences in Winchester. Although there are three defendants, two are awaiting extradition from Holland, so the the third, Debbie, will stand trial alone.

This case is the most recent in the ongoing history of state repression against the incredibly successful anti-vivisection campaign SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), the campaign to close down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) which started in 1999. HLS is a notorious contract animal testing laboratory in Cambridgeshire, which has 70,000 animals languishing within its walls at any one time. Companies outsource their vivisection to HLS to carry out pointless experiments, testing things such as printer ink, petrol and Splenda. Not surprisingly, the company has been exposed several times for gross animal cruelty (e.g. cutting monkeys open while they're still conscious, we'll spare you more of the details...).

So far a total of ten UK activists have been locked up for up to six years for campaigning against HLS. The militant animal rights movement has nearly shut the company down more than once. However the UK and US governments - under pressure from the powerful pharmaceutical and agri-business lobbies - not only bailed out the company to the tune of millions but have ruthlessly targetted activists.

Tactics have included enacting special legislation to protect the vivisection industrycivil injunctions with criminal penaltiesASBOs, draconian bail conditions, infiltration and lengthy prison sentences. A whole national sub-division of the police, the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordinating Unit (NETCU), was almost entirely pre-occupied with the disruption of the animal rights movement.

The “conspiracy to blackmail” trials are clever: the catch-all charge means a whole host of otherwise legal actions are bracketed with an unrepresentative sample of law-breaking. Most of those convicted and sent down have actually been found guilty of little more than using a megaphone or distributing leaflets.

The charge has a high rate of conviction and can land you up to 14 years in the nick. It is a tailored charge used in an effort to crush a highly successful campaign which would have closed the laboratory down if it wasn't for the government bail-out. (SHAC has an international reputation, targeting customers, suppliers and financiers – as the campaigners say, 'Deal with them, deal with us!')

All three defendants have endured strict bail conditions since they were arrested in June 2012. Those conditions restrict their movement, who they can talk to and what campaigning activity they can be involved in.

 To find out more about the case and to support those on trial, visit the website Blackmail 3.

To find out more about SHAC, HLS and what you can do, visit http://www.shac.net/.

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Twitter: @SchNEWS