The secret history of pig-to primate organ transplantation research
Protest will mark first anniversary of report revealing extreme cruelty
and Government contempt for regulations
On Friday 21st September, hundreds of demonstrators will gather in Central
London to call for an independent judicial inquiry to investigate evidence
of severe cruelty and systematic flouting of vivisection regulations.
The protest will gather at Trafalgar Square at 12.00pm with speakers
including Dr Caroline Lucas (Green Party MEP for South East England) at
12.30pm. The march will set off at 1pm down Whitehall. Protest petitions
containing 150,000 signatures will be submitted to 10 Downing Street.
The march will finish outside the Home Office at 50 Queen Anne's Gate.
The climax of the protest will be a mass 'die-in' with hundreds of protesters
wearing primate costumes and masks 'dying' in the road outside the Home
Office - representing the hundreds of primates sentenced to a torturous
death by successive Home Secretaries.
The campaign was sparked by an enormous leak of information from Imutran
Ltd, a Cambridge-based biotech subsidiary of Novartis Pharma that was
spearheading research into pig organ transplants at controversial contract
lab Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). Thousands of pages of internal documents
described the traumatic effects of the research on hundreds of higher
primates. The documents also brought into question the accuracy of published
studies and revealed deliberate Government cover-ups of mistakes and breaches
of legal requirements committed by Imutran and HLS.
Transgenic pig hearts and kidneys were stitched into the necks, chests
and abdomens of five hundred wild-caught baboons and macaque monkeys at
the Huntingdon centre between 1994 and 2000. Despite enormous doses of
immunosuppressants, all the higher primates - related to human beings
- died from surgical failures, organ failure, the toxic effects of the
drugs and infections. Government advisors now admit that the research
was a "blind alley" and that pig organ transplants are unlikely
to ever prove viable.
Anti-vivisection group Uncaged Campaigns published the leaked documents
together with the extensive Diaries of Despair report on 21 September
2000, coinciding with an award-winning exclusive in the Daily Express.
Five days after the dramatic revelations, Novartis Pharma announced the
termination of Imutran's UK research. Within a week, Imutran had obtained
a High Court injunction temporarily banning Diaries of Despair and the
embarrassing documentary evidence on grounds of breach of confidentiality
Uncaged Campaigns and Dan Lyons, author of Diaries of Despair are continuing
the legal battle to overturn the injunction on public interest and freedom
of speech grounds.
For further information and interviews, contact Dan Lyons on 0114 2831155
or 07799 117694. Also see www.xenodiaries.org.
NOTES / FAQs
1. What is the background of Uncaged Campaigns and Dan Lyons?
Uncaged Campaigns is a Sheffield-based pressure group focussing on the
issue of animal experimentation. They have been leading the campaign against
animal-to-human organ transplants on ethical and public health grounds
in the UK. The organisation works peacefully and democratically. Uncaged
Campaigns has achieved the two biggest exposés of animal research
in the last year - the Diaries of Despair and cruel and lethal research
performed on cats and dogs by the Iams pet food company.
Dan Lyons is a graduate and PhD researcher from the University of Sheffield
and specialises in bioethics and politics. He has appeared in several
national media discussing the issue of animal-to-human transplants, including
the Carlton TV film "Organ Farm" broadcast this June and is
a highly respected commentator on this topic.
2. Why was the report called 'Diaries of Despair'?
The documents included twice daily observations of the primates recorded
by researchers at the Huntingdon testing centre. The Express articles,
which are legally in the public domain, report that animals were seen
"quiet", "huddled", "shivering", "unsteady",
"in spasm", "swollen", "bruised", "vomiting",
"diarrhoea", "shaking", "grinding teeth."
One baboon which had a pig heart attached to the vessels in his neck was
seen holding the transplant which was "swollen red" and "seeping
yellow fluid" for several days before he died. Cancer and internal
bleeding was also observed. This is only a tiny snapshot of the entire
catalogue of suffering.
3. What else is happening in the Diaries of Despair campaign?
Because of the overwhelming evidence of Government wrongdoing and failure
(in addition to Imutran and HLS's culpability), the primary goal is for
the establishment of an independent judicial inquiry. The Government has
refused - without explanation - to initiate such an inquiry. The Government
has even treated a legally enshrined expert advisory committee (the Animal
Procedures Committee (APC)) with contempt: refusing to answer the APC's
questions about the inadequate Government response, and there is evidence
that the Government attempted to withhold the primary evidence - the leaked
documents - from the APC. The Government tried to sweep the matter under
the carpet with an internal report which was published in July. But the
report transparently lacked independence and its findings were embarrassingly
incoherent. The APC is now beginning to launch its own investigation,
but it is vulnerable to Home Office interference. The Government is compounding
its problems with an approach that continues to be dishonest and disreputable.
The RSPCA downloaded the documents and has compiled its own report, which
is expected to be published later this autumn. We anticipate that the
RSPCA report will also be highly critical of the Government's conduct.
Despite having no financial backing, Uncaged Campaigns and Dan Lyons
have continued to defend themselves in the action brought by Imutran and
Novartis for breach of confidentiality and copyright. They hope to overturn
the injunction at a trial scheduled to take place next summer.
An Early Day Motion will be retabled this autumn, and the case will be
presented to MPs.
4. What are the main regulatory failures revealed by Diaries of Despair?
Both British and European law ban "severe" suffering. There
is strong evidence that many of the primates suffered severely, and that
this was inevitable given the nature of the research and Imutran's desire
to keep the primates alive as long as possible in order to gain maximum
information about rejection processes.
One of the main features of the regulatory system is a so-called
cost-benefit assessment of proposed vivisection programmes. Diaries of
Despair demonstrates that the Government gives no consideration to the
suffering that animal will endure while placing utmost weight on the desires
of the researchers.
There is further evidence of Government connivance with researchers to
evade regulatory requirements and conceal illegal acts from the public
5. Why does the Government refuse to enforce regulations on animal
The primary reason is the economic power wielded by the chemical and
pharmaceutical industry, which is the predominant user of animals and
main advocate for vivisection. The industry has explicitly threatened
the Government with economic blackmail: investing and employing abroad
if it is inconvenienced by regulations on animal research. The chemical/pharmaceutical
industry has a value system and set of priorities that differs both from
normal people and the letter and spirit of the law. The industry's ultimate
goal is the maximisation of profits, which (to say the least) does not
necessarily coincide with real and unique benefits for human beings -
animals are treated simply as a means to the commercial end. The Government,
unfortunately, has no principled position on the welfare of animals and
is prepared to essentially bypass regulatory requirements in order to
appease the short-term demands of industry. The net result is that the
Government fails to respect the rule of law, leading to greater animal
The rather callous attitude of many in the scientific community is another
major stumbling block. Scientists who experiment on animals cannot bear
to acknowledge the 'costs' they inflict on animals. They resent any ethical
limits on their activities such as those promised by existing regulation,
and display narrow tunnel vision: focussing solely on extracting biological
information and ignoring the wider ethical and scientific issues that
arise from vivisection. The private views of many scientists would be
repugnant to members of the public with a realistic and objective viewpoint.
The Government execution of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986
reflects the distorted and extreme values and priorities of these powerful
Uncaged Campaigns 18.09.01