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Labour Backtracks on HLS Shares

A huge furore erupted on January 22nd 2000 when it was revealed that the Labour Party’s staff pension fund held 75,000 shares in Huntindon Life Sciences (HLS).

HLS is Europe’s largest contract testing laboratory, but its share price tumbled from 113p to 8p per share after the ‘It’s A Dog’s Life’ TV programme on Channel 4 in 1997 showed massive breaches of Home Office regulations on the treatment of animals. Many of its customers and investors deserted the company, and it would have gone out of business had it not received a £24.5 million boost from the NatWest Bank. Both HLS and NatWest are the subjects of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign.

The revelation, which appeared in Big Issue in the North, led to a storm of protest by animal advocacy groups, Labour Party members and several unions. There followed a few days of Labour attempting to obfuscate the matter, claiming that the party had no say in what particular shares were bought by the fund, and that HLS was little different to any other investment opportunity.

However, the story was picked up by sectors of the national media. This led to great embarrassment and accusations of hypocrisy, given the party’s ‘stance’ against bloodsports, and animal abuse in general (sic).

Unable to spin out of the controversy, the Labour Party issued a statement on 27th, which said:

"The trustees of the Labour Party Superannuation Fund this week instructed their fund managers, Phillips and Drew, to sell all shares in Huntingdon Life Sciences. Phillips and Drew have now done this. The Labour Party Superannuation Fund has no other holdings in companies whose principal activity is animal-testing."

The unequivocal nature of the statement against animal testing indicates how severely the Labour Party was stung by the bad publicity invoked by the revelations - even if the Government is nowhere near fulfilling it’s election pledge of a "new life for animals" Indeed, it went further than may have been expected, adding:

"The Labour Party Superannuation Fund trustees are currently drawing up new socially responsible investment guidelines in line with the recommendations of the Labour Government for all pension funds last year. These will look at the way in which the Fund’s money is invested and, when completed, will be used by the fund managers Phillip and Drew to inform their investment decisions for the Labour Party Superannuation Fund."

On the same day, the shopworkers’ union USDAW also announced that it has instructed its investment managers to dispose of all its investments in HLS. General Secretary, Bill Connor, said:

"The union, in common with other organisations, relies on fund managers to look after all its shareholdings, but we will now be reviewing our ethical policy towards all investment"

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns

The Eyes Have It - Artificial Corneas May Save Thousands of Animals

May Griffith of the University of Ottawa Eye Institute, Canada, and Mitchell Watsky, now of the University of Tennessee in Memphis, USA, have developed artificial corneas, which could prevent the painful and unnecessary deaths of millions of rabbits.

The cornea is the eye’s transparent cover. It protects the pupil and iris from the elements and helps to focus images on the retina. Other groups had tried to recreate it, some using polymers, but none had been able to mimic the human model accurately. Griffith’s team harvested cells from each of the human cornea’s three major cell layers. They infected the cells with viruses which made them keep on dividing indefinitely - a process known as ‘immortalisation.’ This provides a constant supply of a desired cell type.

The researchers say that their fake corneas, which took five years to develop, resemble real ones in every important way. They even mimic human corneas in how cloudy they get when splashed with substances such as detergents, hair conditioners and cleaning solutions, says Griffith.

For years rabbits have had cosmetics, detergents and other toxic chemicals injected into their corneas. Rabbits are restrained and their eyes have no tear ducts. Thus, they have no way of relieving their eye of the chemical or the pain Many companies have come to see these tests as cruel, unnecessary and misleading, but others, like Procter & Gamble (P&G), have continued, citing lack of alternatives. Although not initially developed for this purpose, it is hoped that the artificial corneas will provide the cast-iron alternative that people like P&G can’t, or don’t want, to be without.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.