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

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News Release

Diaries of Despair:
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 and copyright.

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.

-ends-

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 and Parliament.

5. Why does the Government refuse to enforce regulations on animal experiments?

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 suffering.

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 lobby groups.

Uncaged Campaigns 18.09.01

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