Huntingdon Life Sciences' Customer Names Will Not Be Released, Judge Rules

Last Updated Nov 9, 2010 3:56 PM EST

A federal court ruling ordering the release of more than 1,000 pages of records on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's investigation of Huntingdon Life Sciences will not reveal the names of companies doing business with HLS.

Drug companies -- such as Novartis and its Sandoz generics unit -- will breathe a sigh of relief at that news. Animal rights activists recently burned down Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella's country house, stole his mother's ashes and vandalized his family grave in protest at Novartis' past association with HLS. HLS is a contract testing lab where drug companies get studies done on animals.

Novartis has insisted that it no longer uses HLS, but activists believe the company still does business there. HLS has branches in Princeton, N.J., and the U.K. Activists placed a butane gas can bomb on the premises of a Novartis office on Sept. 22 (click to enlarge), and making threatening phonecalls to Novartis employees in the middle of the night.

Any ruling requiring USDA documents to be released on HLS ran the risk of naming HLS's customers. But the ruling -- in a Freedom of Information Act case filed by In Defense of Animals -- will keep HLS client names redacted. It states that IDA agreed not to ask for those names:

IDA "agreed to forgo test protocols and protocol amendments; animal tracking and assessment records; the identification of any compound or product; and the identity of any customer of HLS; and dosing charts."
The IDA wants the records because it believes veterinary care at the labs has been inadequate.