WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- The decision by the New York Stock Exchange to list a medical research company targeted by animal rights protestors on a new electronic market where shares can be traded anonymously is being hailed as a victory by animal researchers.
Life Sciences Research, Inc., a Princeton, N.J.-based medical research firm that specializes in animal experiments announced just before Christmas that it had settled a dispute with the NYSE, and would be listed on the exchange's new all-electronic trading platform called Arca.
"We're thrilled," the company's Chief Financial Officer Richard Michaelson told United Press International. "It is a totally anonymous trading environment," he said of the new electronic exchange. "In our situation that is a big advantage."
Life Sciences Research, Inc., is the parent of U.K.-based Huntingdon Life Sciences, and has been targeted on both sides of the Atlantic by animal rights activists organized under the name Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, or SHAC.
The protests, which included sometimes violent campaigns of harassment against individual employees of the company and other firms that did business with it, were so successful that NYSE pulled a planned listing on its main exchange last year, after market-makers and other financial service providers were threatened by activists.
As part of the agreement for the listing on Arca, Life Sciences Research, Inc., agreed to drop their case against the NYSE about the listing being pulled, Michaelson said.
The firm's share price rose 40 percent in the first day's trading, to more than $14, and closed Thursday at $13.75.
Journalist and animal rights sympathizer Will Potter told UPI that targeting the market-makers -- financial middlemen who promise to buy a company's shares at the prevailing price and make real-time trading possible on the pre-electronic NYSE big board -- had been a big step forward for SHAC campaigners, and was what had enabled them to scotch the planned listing.
"That was what got the (animal research) industry really freaked out," said Potter, "once the activists started to understand how important the market makers were... how the stock market actually worked... It was a real turning point."
Campaigners also targeted firms that provided financial, technical and other services to Life Sciences Research, and threatened to mount protests against the NYSE -- a tactic known as tertiary targeting.
In the UK, animal rights activists using similar tactics have successfully forced the closure of two businesses breeding animals for research.
"That business savvy is the greatest threat they pose," Potter said of the animal rights movement, adding that the anonymity Arca provided would close off some of those options for campaigners.
A new law giving federal law enforcement additional powers to surveil and prosecute campaigners using harassment against animal researchers and companies that do business with them was signed by President Bush at the end of November, but the consensus among industry observers was that it was too early to tell how much difference it would make.
Jerry Vlasak, spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, told UPI in a recent interview he believes the new law will lead to more "underground activity," such as vandalizing laboratories and releasing research animals.
"It's not going to make this thing go away," he said, "I don't think you're going to find anybody deterred." Indeed, he said, protestors who had stuck to legal tactics were now worried about being prosecuted under the new law and were leaning towards more militant forms of protest.
The new law strengthens existing federal legislation, which protects animal researchers and other businesses using animals from "physical disruption." The act expands federal offenses under the law to cover campaigns of threats and intimidation that might financially cripple a company without any "physical disruption;" and increases penalties.
It also expands the law to cover so-called secondary and tertiary targets -- companies who do business with animal enterprises -- and individual employees, neither of which were protected by the existing 1992 law.
Federal law enforcement officials say the new powers will enable them to launch investigations, including electronic surveillance of telephones, web sites and e-mail, against small groups of militants who are exploiting loopholes in the existing legislation.