ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUP IN HISTORIC LEGAL WIN

Extract from the Sheffield Star, 23 April 2003

A SHEFFIELD ANIMAL RIGHTS GROUP has won a two-and-a-half-year courtroom battle for the right to expose details of experiments on animals in a government-sanctioned laboratory.

Pressure group Uncaged Campaigns, of Bailey Street in the city centre, has revealed the nature of experiments conducted between 1994 and 2000. Documents show primates such as baboons were transported from the African savannahs to die in laboratory steel cages the size of toilet cubicles. Monkeys and baboons died after organs were transplanted into their bodies in a failed attempt to find a way to perfect animal-to-human organ transplants.

Campaigner Dan Lyons, aged 30, from Stocksbridge, took on some of the UK's best-known lawyers for the right to show how animals were used to supply organs for research and how the Government knew of the programme. The tiny campaign group beat a multi-million pound corporation which they had accused of ill-treatment in the way it transported, housed and experimented on animals. Mr Lyons said: "This is a tragic scandal of historic proportions. Ultimately, the appalling failure of government in its most fundamental duty - to enforce the law - is unmasked."

The experiments took place at Europe's largest animal research centre, the Government-run Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) laboratory in Cambridgeshire. Swiss drug giant Novartis, which had commissioned the work, obtained a gagging order on the small Sheffield campaign group to suppress the release of the files on its internet website. But the Sheffield anti-vivisectionists fought back, arguing the information was in the public interest on a highly sensitive area of policy.

Scientists have been working for years to find a way to prevent the human body rejecting transplanted animal organs. In the UK in 2001, 6,482 people were waiting for a transplant and 414 people died waiting for an organ to become available. Whichever company first found a way to perfect transplants was expected to unlock a world market estimated at £6 billion. But in the end the suffering was in vain. Scientists failed to find a way of overcoming the human body's rejection of foreign organs.

Ministers have rejected calls for a judicial inquiry.

A spokesman for Novartis/Imutran told The Star: "The company is committed to conducting medical research to provide therapeutic advances and to ensuring that all such medical research is carried out in such a way as to minimise any suffering by animals. Research was carried out by Imutran Ltd, a subsidiary company of Novartis, in which, unfortunately, several significant mistakes were made. Most of these were identified and reported to the Home Office by Imutran itself. Novartis deeply regrets these and will endeavour to ensure that similar mistakes will not occur in the future." It said that there remained "a strong need" for animal research in medical research.

 

Baboon operation

"Swiss drug giant Novartis obtained a gagging order on the small Sheffield campaign group to suppress the release of the files."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUICK LINKS

^

 


Uncaged Campaigns logo