The holiday home of Novartis Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Daniel Vasella, house has burnt down, reports The police do not know who or what caused the fire early on Monday morning in the Tyrol area, there is speculation that it is the work of the same group that took the urn of Vaella's mother on July 27.

The gravestone was defiled with a message saying the Basel pharmaceutical company must sever its ties with Britain's Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe's largest contract animal-testing company. reports that the recent actions reflect those of British extremists Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which in recent months is suspected of targeting Novartis in France, burning down a sports center and setting fire to company cars.

Austrian police have confirmed that they are "probably" dealing with a criminal act and are investigating all possible angles – "including SHAC". Swiss security services say they have noticed increases in animal rights violence for some time.

SHAC spokesperson denied any involvement in the recent events, but added that it had many sympathizers "who support our goals". SHAC sent a statement indicating that it was willing to meet Novartis and discuss these issues, "but our campaign against them will continue until they stop using HLS".

Grave-robbing is not a new tactic for European animal rights groups, reports In October 2004 the Animal Rights Militia, which has also targeted Novartis, claimed responsibility for removing from a grave the mother-in-law of a British farm-owner who bred guinea pigs for HLS.

Source: and agencies,