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Animal Rights Group Claims It Bombed Biotech Firm

August 30, 2003|Marcelo Rodriguez | Special to The Times

SAN FRANCISCO — A previously unknown group, saying it was "for animal liberation through armed struggle," took responsibility on Friday for two bombs that exploded the day before outside the offices of Emeryville, Calif.-based biotech firm Chiron.

The Revolutionary Cells posted its involvement on Bite Back, an animal rights Web site, and sent e-mails to animal rights groups.

In the 224-word statement, it threatened more violence against Chiron and other companies that do business with the British-based animal testing lab Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Animal rights groups, including Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, said they had never heard of Revolutionary Cells.

An FBI official said the agency classified the bombings, which caused minimal damage, as domestic terrorism, and that the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington was involved in the investigation.

The Revolutionary Cells' statement said: "This is the endgame for the animal killers, and if you choose to stand with them you will be dealt with accordingly. There will be no quarter given, no more half-measures taken."

Its threatening tone took members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, the main group organizing protests against companies doing business with Huntingdon, by surprise, they said.

On Thursday, Stop Huntingdon members praised the bombing, which came on the heels of an escalating campaign of harassment against company executives. On Friday, Stop Huntingdon-USA President Kevin Jonas distanced his group from the bombings.

"They're different in that their rhetoric indicates that they may not share our commitment to nonviolence," he said.

FBI agent LaRae Quy in San Francisco said that Revolutionary Cells' threats represent "a whole new level of activity."

Quy said there had been an increase in violence related to the animal rights movement in recent moths, including an arson fire at a San Diego apartment building construction site, and attacks last month on the homes of two partners in a Sonoma, Calif., bistro that plans to sell foie gras when it opens in late September.

Chiron officials said the corporation had previously contracted with Huntingdon to perform animal experiments on medical compounds it is developing.

However, spokesman John Gallagher said, "Huntingdon is not currently conducting animal research for us."

Stop Huntingdon disputed the company's assertion.

"We know they are doing business with Huntingdon because there are insiders at Huntingdon and Chiron who release information to us," said Jonas, adding that his organization will continue its campaign against Chiron, the nation's third-largest biotech company.

"Until we get a statement from them saying: 'We will never do it again,' they're fair game."

With 2,000 workers, Chiron is the largest employer in Emeryville, a city of 7,000 at the eastern foot of the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge.

The corporation, with annual sales of more than $1.1 billion, has a solid business in vaccines and blood-testing equipment. Its main products are a meningococcus vaccine sold in Europe and Australia, and blood tests for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

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