When Montpellier abandoned its contract to build an animal testing laboratory for Oxford University 18 months ago, it was seen as an isolated incident.
A building company, suffering from sickening threats and intimidation, was being forced to make a simple choice. It could see its families menaced and fraudulent letters sent to neighbours claiming that its staff were sex offenders. Or it could walk away and watch all its worries disappear.
The construction industry had inadvertently become embroiled in a fierce battle between a criminal fraternity of animal rights extremists, pharmaceutical corporations and research scientists. It was deemed that as long if you stayed away from such projects then you would not encounter any problems. However, since Montpellier's departure from Oxford, the climate has been changing. After months of fruitless hunting to find out the name of the replacement contractor on the project, the extremists have turned their attention to the wider construction industry as part of a concerted campaign of intimidation and terror (see pages 24-27).
Contractors, QSs, architects and even the board of our industry's not-for-profit pension provider B&CE have been targeted as part of a blanket letter-writing campaign. In the same way that everybody working for, or associated with, Oxford University has become a target for the extremists, anybody connected to pharmaceutical projects is equally open to attack.
The situation has become so bad that the pharmaceutical sector is now urging firms working for them not to market themselves as doing so for fear of reprisals, regardless of whether they have links to animal testing sites. This week the British pharmaceutical industry has called on the construction industry to stand "shoulder to shoulder", as it is time that "we stood up for our ability to carry out perfectly legitimate work". And now that prime minister Tony Blair has become involved in the government's response to what is being seen as industrial terrorism, leaders from all industries, including construction, will be able to unite and work with the government to fight off this increasingly sinister threat.