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battle backed by blair

Cutting from the Daily Express
Daily Express, 24.05.02

In the last edition of uncaged! (No. 27, p.12), we reported on South Cambridgeshire District Council's rejection of a proposal from the University of Cambridge to build a large new laboratory dedicated to performing horrific brain experiments on primates.

However, on 22 May 2002 the University of Cambridge, backed by biotech entrepreneur and pro-vivisection propagandist Lord Sainsbury - now Science Minister in the Department of Trade & Education, lodged an appeal against the refusal of planning permission with the Secretary of State John Prescott. The appeal is being decided following a public inquiry, which finished in January 2003. A final decision is expected in the summer.

In what appears to have been a coordinated move, the Prime Minister interfered in the matter in a high-profile speech the following day. Speaking to the Royal Society - an archaic association of scientists - Tony Blair applauded the horrific primate neurology experiments already taking place at Cambridge and gave unqualified backing to the primate research lab plans. The PM also took the opportunity to launch an unfair attack on opponents of the proposal. If there were any lingering doubts about the Government's commitment to big business over democracy, then this outburst settled the issue.

Later on that same day, Blair's support came back to haunt him as Newsnight ran an expertly timed undercover exposé organised by the BUAV which showed the truth about the research that Blair is so keen to promote. This was followed by major pieces in the Daily Express and the BBC news the following day.

In procedures that can only be described as a form of torture, the undercover investigator recorded experiments where primates were deprived of food and water in order to force them to perform tasks. Hundreds of marmosets - a small primate originating from the Brazilian rainforest - were kept in small rooms with no natural light in barren metal cages. The primates were subjected to appalling brain injuries: their skulls sawn open and their brains physically damaged by cutting, suction or the injection of toxic chemicals. A familiar pattern of feeble and biased 'regulation' from the Home Office and an acknowledged lack of relevance to human brain disease and injury complete the disturbing picture from the dark heart of what the Prime Minister claims is the "best of British science".

The issue of primate vivisection is pivotal in the historic struggle against vivisection: it is the main battle front at this stage. The majority of the general public is opposed to any experimentation on non-human primates. The RSPCA has waded into the controversy in forthright terms. In a letter to the local council earlier in the planning application it stated:

"The RSPCA is concerned that the creation of a new centre associated with primate use may well lead to an increase in the use of these animals rather than the decrease that we and others were expecting to see in a humane society in the 21st Century."

The University of Cambridge's proposal, backed by Blair, Sainsbury and others in Government, belongs to the dark ages and is indeed a deadly threat to the notion of a humane society.

The crucial importance of this fight has lead to the creation of a coordinated campaign to block the construction of the lab. Local campaigners under the banner X-CAPE have been joined by Animal Aid, BUAV, NAVS, the Dr Hadwen Trust, Naturewatch, PETA and ourselves, Uncaged Campaigns. A campaign leaflet and website have been produced to explain why the proposed primate lab is cruel and unnecessary. Submissions are being prepared by these organisations to oppose the planning appeal.

But the Government, true to form, is already conniving to fix the hearing in favour of the appeal. The usual procedure is for the Planning Inspectorate to decide, on the basis of the evidence heard at the public inquiry, whether to allow the appeal. However, the Secretary of State, John Prescott, has the option of "recovering" the appeal and deciding himself instead of leaving it to the Planning Inspectorate. The University of Cambridge requested that Prescott recovered the appeal in this instance, a clear sign that they felt that this would increase their chances of success.

Prescott has duly obliged, despite receiving a shot across his bows about the potential illegality of this step. In a letter from the BUAV to Mr Prescott, he was advised that in the light of the direct intervention in the planning decision by both the Prime Minister and Lord Sainsbury, any decision to decide the planning appeal himself could be unlawful. No Government Minister is likely to go against what the Prime Minister has made it clear he wants. Therefore, Prescott's decision would inevitably be infected by bias or the appearance of bias and, as a result, the appeal process would be in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights - the right to a fair trial.

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Uncaged Campaigns 30.01.03


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.