Novartis CEO on activist attacks: "You have to stand up"

Most of the heads of Big Pharma and Big Biotech companies alike would duck and cover if attacked by animal rights activists--but not Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella (photo). Relatives' graves have been desecrated, a vacation home set on fire and epithets were scrawled on a church he attends. But instead of adopting a low profile, Vasella has come out with both guns blazing. And he's glad he did.

"It's my duty as a citizen to speak up when illegal actions take place," Vasella tells USA Today. "Suffering in silence doesn't help anybody. You have to stand up. You have to fight for something. If everyone remained silent, then the people who are violent would prevail."

If Vasella could go back and change anything, he adds, it would be to come out earlier with a public response to the attacks. "We should have done more to engage politicians and the press in making them aware what was going on, because we need the public to understand."

- here's the Q&A from USA Today