'Militant' group claims Novartis attack

A rabid animal-right group has claimed responsibility for torching Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella's hunting lodge in the Tryol. Militant Forces Against Huntingdon Life Science, or MFAH, posted its claim online at directaction.info. It threatened more attacks against Novartis if the drugmaker doesn't sever ties with Huntingdon, which does animal research.

The house fire was just one in a series of attacks on Vasella and other Novartis employees. It followed close behind the desecration of Vasella's parents' grave; an urn containing his mother's ashes was actually stolen. And now Swiss police say a second Vasella family grave has been desecrated: Grafitti saying "Drop HLS Now" was sprayed on a gravestone, and two wooden crosses were stuck in the ground. Swiss media reports that the crosses were labeled with the names of Vasella and his wife.

Ironically, Novartis doesn't do business with Huntingdon anymore, a company spokeswoman said. And it has already cut back on animal testing as computer modeling has taken the place of some early-stage animal research.

Anti-Huntingdon activists have done this sort of thing before. A group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC, has been targeting the firm for years. Originally suspected in the latest attacks, SHAC disclaimed involvement, but told Reuters in an email that another animal rights group may well have done it.

SHAC also told the news service it would continue its campaign against other firms that it claims are Huntingdon customers, including AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and GlaxoSmithKline. "We see this as an escalation," a Novartis spokesman said. "There have been more and more of these types of incident and attacks."

- read the Reuters story
- get more from the Austrian Times 
- check out the Wall Street Journal's take