A British cancer research specialist has been jailed for three years for waging a campaign of sabotage and vandalism against companies linked to an animal testing laboratory. To his colleagues, Joseph Harris, 26, was an outstanding doctor who had a glittering career ahead of him in his specialist field of molecular biology. But in private he became ever more tormented by the fact that his research work on pancreatic cancer was leading to drugs being tested on animals. Faced with an increasing moral dilemma and the estrangement of his girlfriend, who despised animal testing, he turned to violent activism to help ease his conscience and at the same time please her.
Between last December and January he attacked three companies contracted to Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire, causing damage valued at more than 25,000 pounds ($62,000). None was directly linked to animal testing. He glued locks, slashed tyres and put hoses through letter boxes, flooding offices. Harris is the first person to be convicted under legislation designed to tackle harassment and threats from animal rights campaigners directly linked to economic sabotage. Judge Ian Alexander said the conviction would also damage the people he had been trying to help.
"I am sorry that your conviction and the sentence I impose will seriously damage what was a very promising career," he said. "It may well be that your future inability to continue your research into gastro-intestinal cancer will be a great loss to those who suffer that disease." The judge added: "It causes me great discomfort in seeing you before the court, having thrown so much away."
The court heard that Harris found details of his victims on the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty website. All three companies have since ceased trading with Huntingdon Life Sciences. Rebecca Trowler, defending, told the court: "In that field, of course, there are experiments on animals. Inevitably, over time as his career progressed, he was coming under pressure to participate in these experiments." Harris had split up with his girlfriend, who could not accept his work and its tests on animals. Ms Trowler said: "The girlfriend had ended their relationship because of his continued work in the field of medical research because she disapproved of this activity. This put him in an increasing moral dilemma. Essentially he came to a crisis point and he took a very, very stupid decision."
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