Novartis: Desecrations mark escalation by animal rights militants

Novartis says that a militant band of animal rights activists is evidently responsible for the second desecration of a grave belonging to a relation of company CEO Daniel Vasella. "Drop HLS Now" was spray painted on the grave in a reference to the UK's Huntingdon Life Sciences. And Swiss media outlets are reporting that two crosses marked with the names of Vasella and his wife were stuck in the ground.

According to Reuters, the incident occurred last week in the same cemetery where the grave of Vasella's parents was desecrated and the ashes of his mother were stolen. Vasella's summer house in Austria caught fire on Monday and police are investigating it as a possible case of arson.

The acronym SHAC was also spray painted at the site of the desecration, a reference to Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which has campaigned against the use of the lab for animal experiments. SHAC denied any involvement, but Novartis says these fresh assaults mark an escalation by militants in their battle to prevent the use of animals in drug experiments.

"We see this as an escalation. There have been more and more of these types of incident and attacks," a Novartis spokesman said. "From the tactics as well as the signs that were left, the feeling is it is probably related to SHAC."

- read the story from Reuters