UK firm Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) was saved from bankruptcy last week, after US investors stepped in with a rescue package for the beleaguered animal research company. Following a year of campaigning by animal rights protestors, HLS was on the brink of closure after the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) withdrew its financial support. But following government intervention, the RBS agreed to write off HLS's £11 million debt, whilst the Financial Services Authority took the unusual step of granting anonymity to the new American backers.
HLS chairman Brian Cass has criticised the UK government for being slow to respond to the firm's plight, during a year in which both the company's staff and shareholders have been targeted by activists. Home secretary Jack Straw is now planning to give the police greater powers to identify and arrest animal rights protestors.
Some UK scientists fear that the pressure on HLS may mean that new medicines and chemicals are tested abroad, where controls over animal experimentation are not as stringent as those in the UK. 'This country has the most comprehensive and the tightest set of regulations to look after animal welfare in research' said Professor John Hunt of University College, London. 'Every drug made has been tested on animals, and this is a legal requirement' he added.