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Novartis CEO's Home Burned; Mother's Grave Desecrated; Animal Rights Activists Suspected

A vacation home belonging to Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella was burned in a suspected arson, a week after his mother's grave was vandalized by animal rights protesters. The words "Drop HLS Now" were spray painted on the grave, CNBC reports. The protesters want Novartis to sever its ties to Huntingdon Life Sciences, a contract company that does animal testing for drug companies.

The news will trigger heightened alerts at HLS's site in Princeton, N.J., and at companies who do business with the facility. The activists target any company that does business with HLS -- not just its drug clients -- right down to the cleaning staff.

On July 16, activists painted this message on the road to Vasella's main residence:

Vasella is a killer. We are watching you. Death to Vasella. We'll be back.
Drug companies on Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty's hit list include: AstraZeneca, Harlan, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, and Bayer. (Note from this press release that Novartis has a counter-surveillance operation going against SHAC.)

While animal testing is regarded as necessary for the production of safe drugs for humans, former staff members of HLS have been prosecuted for animal cruelty, including an infamous 1997 incident in which a worker was filmed punching a dog while laughing.

If you want to spend an uncomfortable half hour figuring out what HLS is all about, you could do worse than start with Wikipedia.

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