MINISTRY OF DECEPTION
Dan Lyons updates Uncaged's indefatigable quest for justice
over Home Office 'Diaries of Despair' cover-up
In April 2003, Uncaged won a famous, historic legal victory that
allowed the publication of leaked secret documentation revealing
the horrific truth of animal experiments in today's Britain: the
'Diaries of Despair'. For two and a half years, Cambridge-based
biotech research company Imutran Ltd, and their multi-billion pound
parent corporation Novartis Pharma, had used the courts to try to
suppress damning evidence surrounding their pig-to-primate organ
transplant experiments at Huntingdon Life Sciences. But we argued
that the internal documents showed illegal cruelty and Government
misconduct - and that it was in the public interest to expose this
wrongdoing. Finally, despite spending hundreds of thousands of pounds
trying to gag us, Imutran/Novartis capitulated in an out-of-court
settlement, allowing us to finally reveal to the world what really
happens to animals in the secret labs. Basically, if our allegations
against the Home Office were not true, Imutran and Novartis would
not have backed down, I would have been made bankrupt and Uncaged
would not exist today.
Government's infallibility syndrome
Since, that momentous day, we've been locked in an intense
and bitter battle with Home Office officials over the case, as they
have denied any wrongdoing and prevent accountability: the classic
'infallibility syndrome' that grips Government in Britain.
The Home Office's conduct has been consistently dishonest
and contemptuous towards any scrutiny or control of vivisection.
But despite the Government's blustering denials, over 160
MPs have supported our call for an independent inquiry.
Without six-figure sums available to invest in judicial proceedings,
one of the routes we have taken to try to hold the Home Office to
account is through a body called the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The
Ombudsman is supposed to investigate allegations of 'maladministration',
which involves the Government not following its own stated rules
when it makes decisions - such as when it assessed and permitted
the Imutran experiments. The Ombudsman is currently considering
two Uncaged complaints against the Home Office.
Back in 2003, one of our supporters wrote to her MP about the Diaries
of Despair. He was so disturbed he immediately forwarded her concerns
to the Parliamentary Ombudsman. We supplied a detailed complaint
and an investigation commenced. Over two years later, we are still
awaiting a decision!! This complaint goes to the heart of the Government's
manipulation and bypassing of our supposedly 'strict' regulatory
system'. Our complaint detailed how Home Office Inspectors had connived
with Imutran and HLS to illegally obtain licences to conduct severe
and vicious experiments on hundreds of higher primates. Subsequently,
even though monkeys and baboons suffered living nightmares and were
found dead in their cages, the Home Office covered-up these torturous
illegalities and did nothing to stop what was a futile slaughter.
The response thus far from the Ombudsman emphasises some of the
fundamental weakness in our so-called 'democracy'. Although
a final decision has not been made, the performance of the Ombudsman
suggests that, in fact, the Government can literally get away with
murder, and the odds are stacked against ordinary citizens and their
quest for justice. Astonishingly, for an independent body that is
supposed to investigate Government, the Ombudsman seems to be intimidated
and lacking sufficient confidence to question the Home Office. There
appears to be a culture of naïve deference at the heart of
our political system that allows Government to ride roughshod over
the rule of law.
Alice in Wonderland politics
One of the key areas where the Home Office has consistently spun
a clearly dishonest line is over the records of the primates as
they died following the xenotransplant procedures. The internal
study reports that document the primates' suffering clearly
state that the observations contained therein are particularly informative
and representative of the animals' welfare. That hasn't
stopped the Home Office from pretending to MPs, the public, and
the Ombudsman that there are further records that somehow contradict
the recorded observations of the suffering animals Needless to say,
the Home Office has, just like Imutran during the court case, concocted
a litany of creative excuses for why they can't or won't
publish these amazing secret records! It is ironic that we have
been trying for three years to have these additional records disclosed,
but Imutran and the Home Office have done all they can to prevent
publication. Yet they now have the cheek to base their denials on
such evidence: this is truly the politics of 'Alice in Wonderland'!
The bottom line is, as we told the Ombudsman, that any further
records cannot negate the documentation of primates literally 'found
dead', 'collapsed', with 'nystagmus'
(rapid involuntary eye movements), 'grinding teeth',
'rolling eyes', 'uncoordinated limb spasms',
'body and limb tremors', were 'salivating',
had 'very laboured breathing and extreme difficulty trying
to walk', were 'very distressed', 'in
obvious discomfort', or 'looking miserable, huddled
and hunched on cage floor, reluctant to move,' etc., etc..
The information and documentation referred to but not revealed by
the Home Office would provide additional, complementary details
of the fates of the animals.
Needless to say, we have gone through the Home Office's fictitious
story-line with forensic detail, and explained to the Ombudsman
the truth of the situation. Whether the Ombudsman wakes up and smells
the coffee remains to be seen.
Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns, November 2005