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1. Political brutality
The disturbing story of Government malpractice that is revealed
by the Diaries of Despair scandal teaches us a sobering political
lesson. Behind a wall of confidentiality, the Government has succumbed
to the improper advances of big business and the scientific 'old
guard': together they ride roughshod over democracy, the public
interest, the rule of law, and the welfare and rights of animals.
However, the Diaries of Despair affair is the most extreme and well-documented
example of a deeper pattern of Government misconduct. Thanks to
Uncaged Campaigns' and Dan Lyons' legal victory, such abuses, once
exposed, can be remedied.
This section begins with reference to the regulatory framework
for animal experiments in the UK, revealing how
democratic processes are bypassed. The stark contradiction between
the letter of the law and the spirit of the Government's enforcement
results in toothless regulation. The troubling
record of the Government turning a blind eye
to evidence of cruelty and malpractice is then presented.
Looking at the Government's desperate reaction to the Diaries of
Despair exposé, we find the entrenchment of an arrogant,
and callous policy. Furthermore, a letter from junior minister Angela
Eagle dated 14 December 2001 reveals that the Imutran research was
personally authorised by the ministers who were now blocking an
investigation. The policy of whitewash and cover-up
indulged in by the Government since 21 September 2000 raised the
stakes in a political battle whose outcome would be profoundly influenced
by our legal struggle against Imutran and Novartis. The second leak
of documents exposing Imutran's cruel experiments has provided yet
more evidence of the Home Office's deceit. The
Government's own malpractice has meant it has dug an even deeper
hole for itself as we now reveal the true extent of this horrific
Not once in the twenty-five months since Diaries of Despair was
published has the Home Office given a direct answer to the numerous
questions and concerns arising from the Imutran documentation. Our
interactions with the Home Office have led us to conclude that we
are dealing with a body with strong authoritarian tendencies reminiscent
of Warsaw Pact states rather than an open and democratic department.
2. Bypassing democracy
Disregard for the rule of law is the kind of conduct one normally
associates with criminals. However, in the real world of modern
power politics, if lobby groups such as the biotech industry feel
that legislation, or the way it is enforced, affects their self-interest,
then the Government's commitment to upholding the law often disintegrates.
But if the Government fails in its fundamental duty to tell the
truth, uphold the rule of law and enact its election promises, then
it undermines its authority and endangers our democracy. The Diaries
of Despair scandal reveals such failures and gives us the opportunity
to tackle the slide towards a constitutional crisis of confidence.
2.2 and 2.3
of the Diaries of Despair report explain how the Animals (Scientific
Procedures) Act 1986 and accompanying codes and statements lay down
the decision-making process that the Government has a duty to complete
when it decides whether to licence painful and lethal experiments
on sentient creatures.
However, despite Government claims of 'strict regulation' of vivisection,
in reality the secret system is firmly on the side of business rather
than acting as a neutral referee, never mind any notion of 'protecting'
animals. For example, although the Act requires the Home Secretary
to licence only those experiments where the 'benefits' to humans
will in all probability outweigh the suffering of animals (an intrinsically
flawed idea in any case), the Minister continues to licence cruel
and deadly experiments on animals for the sake of the marketing
of 'new' household cleaning products, while poisoning animals for
the sake of new cosmetics and toiletries was still permitted up
until 1998, when public pressure finally forced a change in policy.
Any reasonable person would be sickened that the UK Government
could rule that the availability of a new lipstick, hair dye or
washing powder justified deliberate and severe violence towards
animals. The trouble is, what our Government does is not designed
to reflect the values and desires of reasonable people. Rather,
it is the commercial interests of the economically powerful that
decide Government conduct. For companies such as Procter and Gamble,
their sole value and desire is profit maximisation, and if animals
have to suffer and die to serve their interests then, for P&G,
so be it. In itself, pain doesn't detract from their profits or
affect 'shareholder' value (except when they lose sales due to ethical
boycotts) - that's the harsh reality of what motivates the most
powerful corporations on the planet. With enormous funding for lobbying,
PR and lawyers, these companies get their teeth stuck into Government
because laws and regulations can impact on short-term profits. Governments
without respect for democracy or any conscience - such as New Labour
in Britain - lack the integrity to withstand corporate pester power.
The outcome: the wishes of parliament and the public are sidelined
as we become enslaved by the selfish, destructive and single-minded
interests of corporations (see report on how the Government has
allowed the pharmaceutical industry to dictate policy on animal
experiments at www.uncaged.co.uk/news0108.htm).
3. Toothless regulation
The day-to-day assessment of applications to conduct animal experiments is
conducted by the secretive Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate
(ASPI) which is a unit of the Home Office. Disturbingly, the vast
majority of this small group have a professional background in animal
experiments. Even if the ASPI were minded to be objective, the allocation
of a few dozen Inspectors to assess and continually oversee experiments
on over 2.5 million animals every year gives no opportunity for
rigorous scrutiny. Political bias and dereliction of duty mean that
vivisectors are literally a law unto themselves. (See report page
In the background, a committee of 'hobby' advisors (1)
- the Animal Procedures Committee (APC) - meets about six times a
year to try to deal with the issues raised by animal experiments,
respond to evidence of wrongdoing, examine particularly controversial
vivisection proposals, make recommendations to Ministers and produce
an annual report. But the APC is confined in a political straightjacket.
Far from being independent, its members are appointed by the Government
and its conduct is answerable to the Home Secretary. The Home Office
provides the facilities and secretarial support for the Committee.
The APC is dependent upon the ASPI for information to facilitate its
deliberations - a fundamental hindrance to independent scrutiny. In
practice, critics of animal experiments are in an overwhelmed minority
on the Committee that presently contains 21 members, 11 of which have
a direct financial or professional interest in animal experimentation,
with 3 further members (including the chairman) having close links
with organisations or companies involved in vivisection. Only three
members have associations with organisations that have explicitly
criticised experiments on animals to any degree. (2)
In the heady days
following the arrival of New Labour in power, the APC chairman,
Professor Michael Banner, spoke about the Committee's vital 'watchdog'
role: 'lapdog' would be a more honest assessment now. Even when
the Committee has dared to recommend small improvements, such as:
- revealing the figures for the several million animals bred and
then killed as surplus to the industry's requirements
- larger cages for ferrets
- including sentient species such as squid under the remit of
- greater openness about animal experiments
the Government has dismissed or ignored the Committee. Perhaps
the APC was being more candid than it realised when it stated: "The
successful operation of the 1986 Act depends upon self-regulation
by the scientific community, assisted by the Home Office."
(3) But that's rather like
expecting Slobodan Milosevic to investigate himself for human rights
When evidence of law-breaking and cruelty comes into the public
domain, this frequently amounts to de facto criticism of the ASPI
itself for not preventing or otherwise acting to deal with the problems
so identified. Such a situation creates a potential conflict of
interest and does little to engender faith in the credibility of
investigations by the ASPI. However, the Government has reneged
on a pledge to Parliament just to include a tiny amount of external
input (though this would come from the APC) into ASPI investigations
- this occurred in the immediate aftermath of Diaries of Despair.
It successfully ensures that ASPI investigations are a foregone
4. Turning a blind eye
The evidence contained within the Diaries of Despair documents
coupled with the public track record of the Home Office, led Uncaged
Campaigns' to the conclusion that the Government could not be trusted
to examine fairly the serious public interest concerns that arise
from Imutran's primate experiments. Therefore, public disclosure
and a demand for an independent inquiry were necessary to hold Imutran,
HLS and the Government to account for their wrongdoing.
In summary, the following areas of Government dishonesty and malpractice are
revealed by the Diaries of Despair (see report section
- ignoring severe animal suffering
- 'rubber-stamping' of vivisection licences
- distorting and failing to apply the legally-required cost-benefit
- inaccurate and misleading Parliamentary statements
- a collusive and indulgent relationship with Imutran
- failing to punish breaches of the law
- unjustified support for HLS
These are examined in the "Government
treachery" section of "Futile
Atrocities" and the "Home
Office misconduct" section of 'Legal
Battle' on this website.
The gaping chasm between the Government's rhetoric of 'strict'
regulations and the reality of animal research out of control -
as discussed above - shows the desire of the Government simultaneously
to permit horrific cruelty to animals while protecting it from public
scrutiny. This is not the behaviour of a trustworthy and impartial
In 1999, another anti-vivisection campaign group, the British Union
for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), made a number of allegations
of breaches of the law and Government guidelines by an animal breeding
company, Harlan. In March 2000, the Home Office's ASPI produced
a report which appeared largely to exonerate the company. The BUAV,
in turn, prepared a detailed response to the report which it submitted
to the APC.
The APC discussed the Home Office's report and the BUAV's response
at its meeting in April 2000. The
minutes of this discussion are significant:
"5.6 ... it was felt by a majority of members
that the Inspectorate's report left a number of outstanding questions.
Many members felt that the report sought to exonerate Harlan Hillcrest,
with the risk of creating the impression that the conditions which
prevailed there were deemed acceptable by the Inspectorate."
In the context of the guarded language normally used by advisory
committees in general and the APC in particular, this represents
strong criticism of the Inspectorate. The significant pro-vivisection
bias within the committee means that criticism from it is all the
Numerous undercover investigations conducted by animal protection groups have
all, without exception, revealed a catalogue of animal suffering
on a large scale and sloppy scientific practices, apparently undetected
by the Inspectorate. For example, in 1997 Channel Four broadcast
a documentary based on footage filmed undercover at HLS. This exposed
straightforward brutality towards beagles, including punching the
animals, as well as housing falling well below minimum guidelines.
Staff were caught falsifying test results. The Government responded
by setting 16 conditions for HLS to meet before being given a new
licence to perform animal tests. Without producing supporting evidence,
the Government deemed that HLS had put its house in order - the
truth now shows otherwise (see report section
In May 2002, another undercover exposé, this time at the
University of Cambridge, brought to public attention sickening brain
experiments on primates. Once again, experiments causing severe
suffering were classified by the Home Office as moderate, and there
was inadequate staffing. Botched procedures led to the paralysis
and death of monkeys while others were found dead after being left
for hours unattended while sick. In response to the report
prepared by the BUAV, the Government ignored concerns about
the independence of the Home Office voiced by the APC and a House
of Lords Committee and instead conducted an internal enquiry. True
to form, the Chief Inspector's review glossed over whole issue of
animal suffering and went to extraordinary lengths to exonerate
both the Home Office and the animal researchers themselves.
5. Government cover-up
On 29 September 2000, a week after we had sent the Diaries of Despair
report to the Home Office, we received a response from Mike O'Brien
MP, Home Office Minister. He stated in connection with Huntingdon
"...a number of issues are raised in relation
to the establishment's compliance with the conditions of issue attached
to the Certificate of Designation which merit further consideration
and I will ensure that this happens."
But with regard to the central recommendation for the setting up
of an independent judicial inquiry, Mr O'Brien claimed:
"They [the allegations regarding the Home Office]
all relate to administrative or regulatory issues and my immediate
thoughts are that it would be entirely proper for the Home Office
to investigate them subject to certain conditions."
Quite what Mr O'Brien meant by this nonsensical sentence is a mystery.
If there are serious question marks over the Home Office's performance,
how can it be appropriate for the Home Office to investigate itself?
It was disturbing to discover over a year later that the Imutran
research was personally authorised by Ministers - no wonder they
were keen to sweep the matter under the carpet.
On 2 November 2000, a meeting took place between Mr O'Brien and
Home Office officials, and Uncaged Campaigns together with representatives
from the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and Animal
Aid. However, Mr O'Brien had not read the Diaries of Despair report
in preparation and was not keen (or in a position) to discuss the
substantive issues, the meeting was therefore virtually pointless.
Following the meeting with Mr O'Brien, we received a letter from
the Minister on 29 November 2000, timed to coincide with a Written
Answer in Parliament from the then Home Secretary Jack Straw. Once
again, Mr O'Brien - having apparently discussed the matter with
the Home Secretary - dismissed our recommendation for an independent
judicial inquiry without explanation. Most extraordinarily, Straw
and O'Brien retreated from the position stated in a Written Answer
of 1 November 2000. Instead of an unsatisfactory investigation led
by the Inspectorate but with input from the Animal Procedures Committee,
the Ministers revealed that they had:
"asked the Chief Inspector of the Animals (Scientific
Procedures) Inspectorate to carry out a routine assessment of compliance
with the relevant authorities but this will not amount to a special
Despite Mr O'Brien's earlier assurance that the concerns regarding
HLS's regulatory compliance would be considered, the Chief Inspector's
review focussed solely on Imutran's compliance. Most importantly,
the review was conducted by - and failed to consider the conduct
of - the Inspectorate itself. This response has even drawn criticism
from the APC [see below].
Since our meeting with Mike O'Brien on 2 November 2000, we have
written on four occasions to the Home Office to request a further
meeting in an attempt to present our case for an independent judicial
inquiry and understand the reasoning behind the Home Office's position.
On every occasion we have received a discourteous snub, without
explanation of course.
b. The Chief Inspector's review
Published in July 2001, this is a key document because it is the
Home Office's primary political response to Diaries of Despair.
However, the Chief Inspector's review is a blatant attempt to cover-up
wrongdoing and unfairly discredit the Diaries of Despair report.
On several occasions the review exploits the information vacuum
that existed in July 2001 and explicitly distorts the facts: it
is breathtaking in its brazen dishonesty and inaccuracy (see our
But now, for the first time, Uncaged Campaigns can publish the
full response to the Home Office review,
and present the evidence that demonstrates it to be an act of deceit.
Furthermore, the information contained within the October 2002 Home
Office leak exposes additional falsehoods in the Chief Inspector's
review (see below).
Here we summarise the principle deficiencies in the review:
The Home Secretary's decision to request a report from the
Chief Inspector with a narrow remit was unjustifiable. The Chief
Inspector's report intrinsically lacks independence and thoroughness.
Our central criticism in the Diaries of Despair report came
about because of the strong evidence of inadequacies in the
Home Office's regulation of Imutran's research at Huntingdon
Life Sciences. This has neither been acknowledged nor investigated.
Throughout his review, the Chief Inspector seeks to downplay
or gloss over the terrible trauma suffered by the primates,
especially after the transplant experiments. The few token criticisms
made by the Chief Inspector use mealy-mouthed language designed
to exonerate Imutran from blame. For example, the Chief Inspector
refers to a "perceived" failure to kill monkeys at
a specified endpoint - i.e. when the animals' suffering reaches
a certain level of severity. These monkeys were dying in severe
pain from kidney failure and other complications resulting from
kidney xenotransplantation. Yet the Chief Inspector's discussion
does not help to inform the public about the true impact of
this research programme and any breaches that occurred.
The Chief Inspector's statement: "Imutran did not advance,
and the Home Office did not consider, claims of imminent clinical
trials as a realistic short-term benefit," is both untrue
and unethical (see paragraphs
2.3 and 2.4 of our
response). This has important repercussions for the adequacy
of the Home Office's operation of the crucial cost/benefit assessment.
It also may have prejudiced the Court in our legal battle with
Imutran/Novartis by giving a falsely optimistic impression of
the accuracy of Imutran's statements.
Errors and breaches committed by HLS, such as the illegal re-use
of animals and overdosing errors, are incorrectly attributed
to Imutran (presumably this is a politically-motivated tactic
designed to shield the controversial firm HLS from criticism)
and then implicitly dismissed as unimportant. (See
paragraphs 3.8-3.12 and 3.58
of our response.)
Paragraph 5.8.2 of the Home Office review refers to "unfounded"
concerns in Diaries of Despair regarding understaffing. In paras
3.24 to 3.27 of our response we explain that the Chief Inspector's
assertion here is, by his own admission, completely without
foundation. This unfounded ascription seems to be a dishonest
attempt to discredit the Diaries of Despair report. As such,
we are particularly concerned by this aspect of the CI's report
because it is such a blatant example of bad faith and a failure
to uphold the standards that the public expect of civil servants.
Breaches of animal welfare commitments to the Home Office and
conditions of licences are dismissed by the Chief Inspector
as of no importance. The Home Office has a deeply callous attitude
to the abuse of animals.
In public statements, the Home Office refers to two infringements
that it has deemed not worthy of prosecution. However, the Home
Office omits to mention the nature of these infringements in its
communication with members of the public and MPs. 'One' of those
infringements is, in fact, the failure on "several" (the
words of the Chief Inspector) occasions to put dying primates out
of their misery at the time ordered by the Home Office - in other
words additional, unlicensed suffering of a deeply traumatic nature
caused by irreversible kidney failure. Furthermore, one would imagine
that the infliction of unlicensed severe suffering would attract
severe punishment in a "strict" regulatory system. Instead,
the Home Office claims that the gravest breach of the law possible
in this area does not merit prosecution: instead, they have been
"dealt with by issuing letters of admonition to those responsible".
This astonishingly weak response cannot be consistent with Ministers'
claims that they "are working to ensure that the highest standards
of animal welfare are being implemented."
The Home Office's deceitful and evasive response to the Diaries
of Despair report merely serves to confirm the necessity of an independent
judicial inquiry to examine the Home Office's regulation of Imutran's
xenotransplantation research at HLS and its implementation of the
Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986.
c. The Animal Procedures Committee (APC)
The Home Office's dismissal of legitimate concern in this area
extends even to its own advisory committee, the APC. The Chair of
the APC has written three times to the Minister in an unsuccessful
attempt to extract a justification for the Home Office's refusal
to initiate any form of special investigation. The APC has itself
expressed its "surprise" to the Minister that the Home
Office has chosen not to commission a "special investigation"
into the "serious issues raised by the allegations by 'Uncaged'"
[See the annex to the minutes
of the APC's February 2001 meeting) and has stated: "Most
members were concerned that the remit [of the Chief Inspector's
review] had not been wide enough." (para 4.7, October
2001 meeting minutes).
Uncaged Campaigns is also concerned that the Home Office may have
sought to obstruct the APC's deliberations on this matter. The Secretariat
to the APC is supplied by and located in the Home Office. Until
April 2001, the APC Secretariat had informed both ourselves and
concerned members of the public that APC members had seen the full
Diaries of Despair report. Following a direct question on this matter,
it transpired that this had not in fact happened and that the Committee
had not been given access to the most important material - the primary
documentation. Had this situation not been rectified, this would
have severely hindered the APC's ability to scrutinise the matter
properly. The Secretariat has since apologised for the "confusion".
It may have been an innocent mistake, but when set in the context
of the Home Office's general approach to such matters, one cannot
help but be suspicious about this incident.
However, the APC, as the primary body responsible for reviewing
the actions of the Home Office, lacks the power and independence
to perform an effective watchdog role. Furthermore, in relation
to their independence with regard to the Diaries of Despair concerns,
the APC has stated:
"Because the original licence applications had
been referred to the Committee, the Committee itself had been involved
in some of the processes criticised by "Uncaged"."
(para 6.2, Feb 2001 minutes)
It is this lack of power and independence on the part of the APC
which means that its role in an investigation would fail to prevent
any conflict of interest. The Committee is incapable of holding
the Home Office to account and, for this reason, limiting disclosure
of the Imutran documents to the APC (rather than into the public
domain) would fail to protect the public interest. This is one of
the reasons we stood up to Imutran/Novartis' legal bullying and
our eventual victory ultimately confirms this. In calling for an
independent judicial inquiry, we are simply asking for the basic
principles of justice and due process to be observed.
d. The 'New Documents'
In October 2002, a second devastating leak of documents concerning
Imutran's research occurred, this time from the Home Office itself.
These new papers reveal in detail the internal mechanics of the
secret vivisection licensing system in the UK, and expose shocking
new information about Imutran's experiments and the behaviour of
the Home Office. In particular, this documentary evidence brings
to light numerous inaccuracies and falsehoods in the Chief Inspector's
reveiw of Imutran's research - the Government's main political defence
in this affair:
Imutran successfully applied for permission to conduct monkey-to-baboon
heart xenotransplantation experiments with the intention of
using sick babies as the first human guinea pigs. This practice
has been completely hidden from public view until now and was
later criticised as unethical by a Government committee.
Imutran exaggerated the potential benefits of their research
in submissions to the Home Office. The documents provide numerous
statements that directly contradict the Home Office Chief Inspector's
claim that Imutran did not suggest that human trials of pig
organs were likely to take place in the near future.
Pig liver transplants have been dismissed as particularly improbable
due to the highly complex and species-specific metabolic function
of the liver and numerous known differences between human and
pig liver function. Despite this, Imutran applied and received
permission to conduct pig-to-primate liver transplantation experiments.
In confidential correspondence, the Home Office and the APC
complained to Imutran about the company's apparent 'cavalier'
attitude to the regulations, and felt that the company had taken
advantage of a 'degree of latitude' afforded them by the Home
Office. Despite these protestations, the regulators were unwilling
to enforce their will or punish transgressions by Imutran. On
the contrary, ministers personally authorised the research and
have gone to extreme lengths to conceal embarrassing errors
and breaches of the law.
Imutran experimented on primates "without the Home Office's
prior knowledge or consent". This directly contradicts
the Chief Inspector's report which claimed that all animals
were used with the consent of the Home Office.
Imutran grossly underestimated the extent of the suffering
of the primates in many of their licence applications.
For more detail about the implications of these new documents,
click here to view the briefing or here
to view the documents themselves.
- All the members have additional full-time professional
- See the Animal
Procedures Committee website.
- Report of the Animal Procedures Committee for 1997, para 114,