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Animal Rights Group Claims A Victory

HLS takes one in the pocketbook

A victory in the fight against animal cruelty. That is what members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) are calling yesterday's announcement by Stephens Inc., the largest investor and primary financier of Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), that it has entered into an agreement to sell all of its stock and debt investments in the lab. HLS has a long and well documented history of animal abuse and has been a target of animal rights activist for some time. Stephens is the latest in a long line of banks and advisers to step back from HLS. Stephens, which bailed HLS out after Royal Bank of Scotland pulled out its lending facility from the company, is HLS's only debt provider as well as its largest shareholder. The Stephens announcement comes almost one year after the date that Stephens saved HLS from financial collapse and condemned 180,000 animals to die in 2001. In July of this year Stephens kicked in another couple million to keep the lab afloat.

"We are certainly pleased with Stephens's announcement," states SHAC spokesperson Pat Monroe. "But we are speculative as to whether the company has actually quit or if it has merely hidden its role from the public eye. We've asked Stephens to prove it has no connection, directly or indirectly, to HLS and reveal the identity of the lab's new backer. Until then, pressure will continue to increase against Stephens." SHAC will continue with its planned National Weekend of Action at the Stephens Inc. headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas this weekend, January 13th and 14th. "We will be there, whether it is for a protest or for a victory celebration. Regardless, we count Stephens's announcement as a victory whether the company felt the need to end, or simply hide, its involvement with HLS."

Brian Cass, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Huntingdon commented, "The transaction has no impact on our day to day operations or funding. We now have a confirmed long term loan through 2006, the terms of which will remain the same with a different, but equally supportive, lender." A SHAC spokesperson replied, "We will find out who the new backer is and we will campaign against them in the same way as we did against Stephens."
Sources: Times (UK), AFX, The Telegraph (UK), Stephens Group Inc., SHAC (USA), SHAC (UK)

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