Animal rights extremists have threatened attacks on nearly 100 companies which donated money to Oxford University. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) gave them a deadline of a week before attacks start on the homes of directors and employees, unless they promise never to give money to the university again.
They made the threat because a medical research laboratory at the university which will do animal-testing is being built. Work resumed on it in December, after a 16-month postponement due to intimidation and threats of violence.
University insiders spoke of a "climate of fear" on campus, students have been warned to step up security, and research scientists said they were bracing themselves for "very nasty activity by the ALF".
The group threatened to "trash" the offices of companies which refused to pull out and to attack the homes of directors, trustees and employees. Home addresses would be posted to other activists on the internet. "Any company who has not made an announcement can now expect full attention from the Animal Liberation Front," it said. "It's not going to be pretty."
Police are liaising with the FBI, who warned there is a "nexus" of animal rights extremists fromboth sides of the Atlantic working together. A spokesman for the FBI said there are "worrying signs" that violent action is on the increase.
The ALF has not officially stated who its targets are but is believed to have used a list of companies posted on the website of Speak, a group which is leading the campaign against the laboratory. Many of the firms are large multinationals, including IBM, Vodafone and BP, but there are also several environmental organisations such as the British Deer Society, the Galapagos Conservation Trust and the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
An insider at one threatened company said even if no attacks followed, damage would still be caused. "Most large corporate companies are averse to seeing their name associated with anything negative. The ALF hope if they spread the net wide enough, someone will blink, then they can say, 'Look, so-and-so company has pulled out.'"
But police believe violence, criminal damage and arson are likely. Top-level executives at the companies have met and taken advice from executives at Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), the animal research company that has been the focus of animal rights campaigners for the past decade. …