This campaign has been labelled as eco- or urban terrorism owing to the personal and violent nature of attacks on executives within HLS and its stakeholders (investors as well as employees, customers and suppliers).
There is little resemblance to mainstream public relations techniques in the extreme actions of those convicted. However, the use of online media is a key element of the activities used to persuade others to support the SHAC cause. Indeed, it is claimed that similar extreme animal rights activism is on the rise outside the UK, particularly in the US.
From a PR perspective, one of the reasons that HLS exists as a “contract research organisation” is that it undertakes the type of research that could be seen as reputation damaging for major pharmaceutical and chemical companies.
The work of HLS in testing animals has been robustly criticised by authorities such as the government Home Office in the past, although the company claimed it had addressed its problems and is fighting its corner using a combination of communications and legal redress.
Clearly the issue of animal testing is a hugely controversial one – where opposing sides have ideological underpinnings for their position that seem unlikely to be changed. When there is no hope that dialogue between parties could be undertaken, let alone any win-win zone found, is the only alternative the use of intimidation (whether by legal or violent means)? Or do such approaches merely entrench views and escalate the demands of both sides?