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news release

SECRETS AND LIES: Uncaged attacks Government statement enshrining vivisection secrecy

Leading UK anti-vivisection group Uncaged has expressed disgust at the announcement today by Home Office Minister Caroline Flint to maintain a ban on disclosure of details of animal experiments. [1] The decision will do nothing to enhance the personal safety of animal researchers, and is in fact likely to make matters worse.

In refusing to repeal Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 - the so-called 'confidentiality clause' - the Government has chosen to ignore the recommendations for greater openness made by relatively conservative bodies such as the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures [2] and its own advisory committee [3], as well as the entire animal welfare movement.

Having consulted on the issue for four years, the Government has decided to do virtually nothing. The appalling decision has come as no surprise to Uncaged, whose campaigns are completely non-violent. Campaigns Director Dan Lyons commented:

"The Government refused to endorse the findings of its own advisors and announced some months ago that it would discuss freedom of information solely with those who conduct animal experiments, so it is no surprise that they have decided to back the vivisection industry to the hilt. This is par for the course for a Government whose animal research policy is bent to the point of illegality.

"The Government's excuse - protecting the safety of scientists - is a complete red herring. Everybody in favour of the repeal of the confidentiality clause was happy for personal details to be removed from any information released. What's more, at this moment anyone can walk into a library or browse the internet and obtain the names and work addresses of hundreds of animal researchers. As the Government probably realises, retaining Section 24 will do nothing to protect those involved in vivisection, but will keeping the public in the dark about the horrific reality of animal research."

Confidential documents leaked to Uncaged from the Home Office and failed pig organ transplant firm Imutran, demonstrate what the industry has to hide. Uncaged won a two-and-a-half year legal battle to publish the documents having argued that it was in the public interest to reveal collusion, misconduct and illegal behaviour on the part of Government Inspectors and animal researchers. [4]

The documents included researchers' records for hundreds of primates as they died following pig organ transplant experiments. They revealed that several primates were allowed to become so ill that they were "found dead" in their cages before they could be put down, in direct breach of the law. Other harrowing observations included: "very distressed and having difficulty breathing... animal collapsed"; "uncoordinated limb spasms", "suffered a stroke", "retching and salivating", "abdomen swollen and appears fluid filled. Salivating. Very laboured breathing. Extreme difficulty trying to walk", "large volume of bloody mucoid faeces", "Collapsed on cage floor, appears weak and unable to get up, breathing shallow and rapid, salivating, heavy lidded eyes, body and limb tremors"

The papers also included communications between Imutran and the lab where the research took place, Huntingdon Life Sciences. They revealed that monkeys were illegally re-used due to failures at the controversial establishment, as well as mistakes in the performance of the experiments such as a quadruple drug overdose. These mistakes should have put Huntingdon's licence to conduct animal tests in jeopardy. The Parliamentary Ombudsman is currently considering two separate complaints against the Home Office over it failure to enforce the law in the Imutran research.

Amazingly, confidential Home Office papers - of precisely the type that the Government wishes to keep secret - were also published by Uncaged with the agreement of the research company themselves. Names of individuals and particular commercially-sensitive information were blocked out. Dan Lyons observes:

"Our victory in the Imutran case, and the format of the published documents, show that freedom of information can be achieved without highlighting the individuals concerned. Every time information leaks out of vivisection laboratories, we discover an appalling picture totally at odds with the image projected by the animal testing industry. The Government's decision today is all about manipulating the public debate and hiding illegal cruelty.

"Ironically, the more extreme and secretive the Government and animal researchers become, the more likely it is that activists will give up on traditional forms of campaigning and take matters directly into their own hands. If the Home Office and animal researchers are not prepared to play by the rules, thereby inflicting horrific suffering on animals, then they are hypocritical to complain about law-breaking by anti-vivisection activists."

Uncaged also dismisses Government plans to publish 'anonymised information' about animal research as an "empty gesture". Dan Lyons continues:

"This information will be produced by the Home Office and the animal researchers themselves: there will be no independent scrutiny to ensure that it is truly representative. Even supporters of animal experiments admit that researchers underestimate animal suffering and exaggerate the likely human benefit of their vivisection proposals. [5] We won our legal battle having argued that Imutran had misrepresented their research. These people simply cannot be trusted."

REFERENCES:

  1. Home Office Press Release. "Protecting Science, Promoting Openness", Ref 219/2004, 1 July 2004 11:14.
  2. HL Paper 150-1, 16 July 2002, paragraphs 9.11-9.18. www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldanimal.htm
  3. Animal Procedures Committee. Report on Openness. August 2001 - www.apc.gov.uk/reference/openness.pdf
  4. www.xenodiaries.org. The Observer "Exposed: secrets of the animal organ lab", 20 April 2003 (accessible at: observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,6903,940033,00.html)
  5. E.g. Dr Robert Hubrecht, Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, quoted in the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures, paragraph 5.21. This point was also made by the RSPCA.

Uncaged Campaigns 01.07.04

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