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Novartis CEO claims attacks "changed his life"

Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella says the people who burned down his holiday home and defiled his family's graves are not criminals but "terrorists" beyond dialogue.

In an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper, the 55-year-old chief executive said the attacks have changed his life and that more needs to be done to rein in the animal-rights extremists believed responsible for the "wicked" acts.

Last week Vasella's home in Austria was set on fire. In July his mother's urn was stolen and his dead 19-year-old sister's grave was desecrated. Crosses bearing his name and that of his wife were placed in a Chur cemetery. Workers' cars have been torched and angry graffiti sprayed on walls.

Vasella said he and Novartis employees around the globe have been harassed for years now by a group demanding the corporation cut ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences, a Britain-based facility for animal testing. Vasella said Novartis has had no relationship whatsoever with the laboratory for some time now and that police have not taken the threats seriously enough.

"How far do things have to go before you can speak of terrorism?" Vasella told the newspaper.

The CEO of the Basel-based multinational said the attacks have made him more cautious but not afraid. He said he understands sympathy for animals but that testing must continue in the name of developing better medicines.

"The population fully supports medical-biological research with the goal of making progress for patients," he said. "That must be respected."

Investigators had no new information on Sunday but postings on a site frequented by members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty said it was "too bad" that Vasella had not been home at the time of the August 3 fire.

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