Police fire pepper spray at animal rights activists outside Arkansas company

Monday, October 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ Police fired pepper spray at animal rights activists Monday after some tried to breach a barricade outside a firm with ties to a controversial British research company.

About two dozen activists were arrested outside the downtown headquarters of Stephens Inc. Nine of them had tried to scale the 3-foot barricade, chanting ``stop the torture, stop the pain.'' Many wore gas masks, bandanas and animal masks, and some had painted animal features on their faces.

``The Battle of Little Rock has begun,'' Mark, a group leader who refused to give his last name, said over a bullhorn.

No injuries were reported. Little Rock Police Lt. Terry Hastings said most of those arrested were charged with disorderly conduct.

About 150 people arrived in Little Rock over the weekend for protests against the company and its investment in Huntingdon Life Sciences.

The demonstration was organized by Philadelphia-based Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which claims the company's laboratories in Great Britain and New Jersey mistreat animals.

Stephens says Huntingdon complies with government regulations in its treatment of animals and does not abuse animals.

``The incidents of abuse they are talking about at Huntingdon happened prior to our investment,'' said Warren Stephens, chairman of Stephens. He said the protesters turned down an offer to tour the labs.

``Their response to that was `No. We're only interested in seeing Huntingdon out of business,''' Stephens said.

On its Web site, Huntingdon says it is certified by both the British and U.S. governments.