A Case Study In Supply Chain Vulnerabilities

Patrick Roberts highlights lessons from Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Note: this article provides general information for business continuity managers. It makes no comment on the morality or ethics of the activities of Huntingdon Life Sciences or the activists that oppose the company.

Ever since ‘It’s a Dog’s Life’ was aired on Channel 4 in March 1997, the UK-based company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) has been the focus of an unprecedented campaign of violent protests, physical attacks and intimidation of staff. In parallel with this direct action against the company, activists have also targeted a large number of organisations that do business with them: this has ultimately had a much greater effect on the ability of HLS to continue its business. HLS’s unique experience of being on the receiving end of a well planned, concerted campaign to destroy the company by any means possible provides a vivid illustration of supply chain vulnerabilities. This article looks specifically at the activists’ targeting of financiers, suppliers and customers of HLS and attempts to derive from this analysis some general lessons for supply chain resilience.

One of the mainstays of the activists’ campaign has been attempts to cut off funding to HLS. The first major blow came in 1998 when Barclays sold its holding in the company. As the campaign gathered pace, numerous other shareholders – both institutional and individual – withdrew. As a result, HLS became entirely dependent on a £24.5m loan from NatWest bank. The situation gradually worsened over the next two years as stockbrokers and market makers stopped handling HLS shares and finally, in July 2001, the Bank of England had to step in to offer emergency funding and banking service ...
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