A BIOTECHNOLOGY company’s CEO appeared in Ballina District Court last week after he was alleged to have assaulted an animal rights protester earlier this year.
Leonard Moran, Carrentrila, Ballina, is the owner and CEO of Ovagen International Ltd, a biotech company that produces germ-free chicken eggs and germ-free birds in commercial quantities for use primarily in the pharmaceutical industry.
Moran, described in 2008 as a ‘serial entrepreneur’ by then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin, is also the former owner of Biological Laboratories Europe Limited, a company he sold off to Massachusetts-based Charles River Laboratories for €25 million in 2002. The premises of both companies are situated adjacent to each other beside Moran’s home in Carrentrila.
On March 3 earlier this year Laura Broxson, founder of the National Animal Rights Association (NARA), organised a protest with three colleagues to campaign outside Ovagen and Charles River Laboratories against the company’s alleged ill-treatment of animals and unethical animal testing.
Broxson travelled from her home in Dublin by car with three colleagues to protest and raise awareness about their concerns. This was the ninth or tenth time they had organised such a protest in Carrentrila.
When Broxson arrived by car in Carrentrila with Jude Murphy, Kim Griffin and another colleague at approximately 1.35pm they parked to the right of Leonard Moran’s driveway entrance outside a wall at the front of his house and close to Ovagen and Charles River Laboratories.
Soon afterwards witness Jude Murphy said that he heard Broxson shout into a megaphone. “Shame on you Leonard Moran, you are responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals. You have blood on your hands.”
‘I feared for my life’
Moran was said to have jumped through a hedgerow with a hammer in his hand, shouting ‘What did you say?’. Broxson said Moran then punched her on the side of her head whilst wielding the hammer. “I feared for my life,” she said.
Defence solicitor Paul Cunney told the court that Moran was working on improvements and signage in his garden on the Saturday afternoon in question, which was why he had a hammer in his hand when he approached Broxson.
Broxson said she suffered severe pain on the side of her head and went immediately to Mayo General Hospital where she was assessed and kept for a few hours. Her parents later drove from Dublin to pick her up as she was unfit to drive. Inspector Joe Doherty submitted photographs which he said showed swelling under Broxson’s right eye and a medical report.
Solicitor Paul Cunney said his client Leonard Moran had put yellow point markings at the front of his home some years ago which highlighted that it was in fact private property, and these markings had been ignored by the protesters who subsequently parked there.
Gave her ‘a clip’
Moran admitted coming face to face with Broxson at the front of her car, and he said a heated verbal exchange occurred. He said he only raised his arm because she lunged at him. The former rugby player admitted that he may have connected with her.
After the alleged incident Detective Garda Pat Ruane told the court he arrived at Carrentrila and spoke with Moran, who told him that he had given Broxson ‘a clip’.
Moran told the court, “I have been tormented by this one individual. She’s like a little terrier in and around my house”. Moran said the malicious and personal nature of Broxson’s protesting had made him very angry. However, he denied assaulting the administrative worker. He also stated that comments have been made on a NARA Facebook page in relation to the assault which he deemed inappropriate.
Judge Mary Devins said that she wanted a preliminary investigation into details surrounding the case before she considers the evidence. She then adjourned the case until February 28 2012.