Big four firm Deloitte & Touche has ended its auditor relationship with London-based animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences after being targeted by animal rights activist groups for its association with Huntingdon.
A Deloitte insider allegedly gave the names, home addresses, mobile phone numbers and e-mail addresses of as many of 135 Deloitte managers and their secretaries to activist group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC). The list was distributed to more than 8,000 activists and printed on 70,000 leaflets.
Animal rights activists campaigned for their beliefs by jamming mobile phones and e-mail inboxes of the Deloitte personnel, visiting homes of Deloitte managers, and spray-painting homes and cars, littering leaflets in neighborhoods and gardens, as well as picketing and demonstrating outside Deloitte offices throughout England, Scotland, and Wales, as well as offices in New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.
A SHAC spokesman welcomed the Deloitte withdrawal with mixed emotions, drawing a direct relationship between Deloitte's job as auditor and HLS's experiments with animals. "Deloitte's have pulled out at a time which is financially suitable to them. They could have pulled out many weeks earlier. For every extra day they held on, 500 animals died at HLS."
Deloitte assured the press that the firm's decision to withdraw as auditor effective for the 2003 audit does not reflect on any differences with the company on accounting issues. A simple statement issued by Deloitte CEO John Connolly appeared on the firm's Web site: "Having completed the audit for 2002, we will not be offering ourselves for re-election as auditors to Huntingdon Life Sciences."