A woman accused of blackmailing the owner of a kennels as part of a campaign by animal rights activists has publicly apologised for making threatening telephone calls to him.

Suzanne Jaggers, 35, is alleged to have made calls to Brett Cassidy and his Cheshire-based business in October last year and April this year after he was targetted by the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty organisation.

The group, SHAC, has been involved in activities against the Cambridgeshire research facility Huntingdon Life Sciences and yesterday Jaggers claimed she had been pressured into making the calls to Mr Cassidy who was suspected of having dealings with the them.

Jaggers, of Upper Sackville Street, Skipton, a member of the RSPCA, said she had taken part in peaceful animal welfare demonstrations over the years, but she was frightened of some of the people in SHAC.

She told a jury at Bradford Crown Court that she feared she would be beaten up and that she made the phone calls even though she did not want to.

"Why did you do that?'' asked her barrister Andrew Lees.

"Because I felt under pressure to do it. Basically they would ring up and say we have to keep the pressure on...if you love animals this is what you've got to do.'' Mr Cassidy broke down as he gave evidence about the effect of the campaign on his staff and business.

After his firm was named on the SHAC website he contacted them to say he had no dealings with Huntingdon Life Sciences, but the campaign escalated from e-mails and telephone calls to noisy protests outside his kennels.

Mr Cassidy was overcome with emotion as he described how one of his staff was called a Nazi by protesters.

Jaggers admitted making a call to Mr Cassidy on October 8 last year during which she said: 'I'm trying to protect you. There's some real nutters in the organisation. E-mail the SHAC and say you've got nothing to do with them (HLS) and you'll be left alone.'' In another phone call in April, which she also accepted making, Jaggers said Mr Cassidy's vehicles would be firebombed. Jaggers claimed that she had not attended demonstrations at Little Creek Kennels and she did not know about the campaign against them.

"SHAC instructed me what to do. I didn't particularly want to do it,'' said Jaggers. "I went to the police and asked for help and the police in Skipton basically told me to get lost. I know this sounds pathetic but I thought there was no way out.'' Jaggers said she thought if she was traced as the caller and got prosecuted that would be the end of it. "I'm very sorry about it,'' she told the jury.

She said the phone calls were wrong and added: "I don't like people who torture or abuse animals...but it's not right to then do something wrong to them is it?'' Jaggers has denied three charges of blackmail relating to three separate phone calls she allegedly made to Mr Cassidy or his business.

The prosecution has alleged that Jaggers was a "willing foot soldier'' in the campaign.

The trial continues