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
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.