COMMONS INQUIRY DEMANDED INTO OMBUDSMAN WHITEWASH
Following Uncaged's historic legal victory which allowed publication
of leaked xenotransplantation research documents, a complaint against
the Home Office was lodged with the Parliamentary Ombudsman. However,
the Ombudsman's report (ref: PA-2823), laid before Parliament on
15 December 2006, is a fundamentally flawed whitewash. This is
basically a cover-up of Government collusion in illegal animal
Successes so far
For the best part of seven years, Uncaged has
been fighting for justice for the hundreds of monkeys (and thousands
of pigs) who were subjected to pointless, vicious and illegal experiments
by Imutran. We've achieved major successes on the way:
closed down less than a week after we exposed them in 2000
2003 we won a historic 'David and Goliath' legal
battle against Imutran and their multinational parent company
Novartis, proving that we were right about their cosy and collusive
relationship with Home Office Inspectors
- We have published unique
information revealing the true horrors and corruption surrounding
- We have fostered a more realistic attitude
among the media and the public towards the lie that animal research
is 'strictly regulated'
- Our revelations have curtailed xenotransplantation
research worldwide as confidence in the technology has waned
Ombudsman obstructs democratically-mandated consideration for
However, despite receiving support from over 200 backbench
MPs, achieving any accountability or justice from the government
itself is proving to be a surreal and tortuous experience. The
Ombudsman's conduct and attitude exemplifies this. The Ombudsman
carried out an incompetent investigation that was hampered by lengthy
delays, staff absence etc., and their report is flawed in fundamental
respects. This represents an important missed opportunity to pressurise
the Home Office into scrutinising animal experiment proposals, which
would immediately reduce the number of animals experimented on
and their suffering.
As our new briefing explains, the Ombudsman's key finding was their exoneration
of the Home Office's clear miscategorisation of severe pig-to-primate
organ transplant experiments as of merely 'moderate' severity.
This deception helped Imutran - the research company responsible - to
get permission for these experiments more quickly and easily. A
more honest assessment might have prevented this horrific suffering
In these experiments, many monkeys were allowed to suffer for
so long that they were found dead or in a collapsed state - these
were flagrant breaches of the moderate severity limit, and they
prove that the original assessment was mistaken. Yet Home Office
inspectors just turned a blind eye and let them carry on regardless.
Incompetent and prejudiced investigation
However, the Ombudsman has let the
Home Office off the hook on the basis of a total misunderstanding
(or misrepresentation?) of the facts of the case and the requirements
of the regulatory system. Furthermore, and contrary to their letter
to MPs, the Ombudsman has refused to consider our main criticism
of their report when reviewing the case.
Interestingly, the Ombudsman's conclusion suggests that
they were prejudiced against us from the start. They seem to view
us as ill-informed and naïve campaigners who can't tell
the difference between a critique of vivisection as a whole and
a narrower critique of the way regulations are implemented. This
is ironic given that it is the Ombudsman who doesn't seem
to understand how the severity of animal experiments is supposed
to be assessed and controlled.
In contrast to their scepticism towards Uncaged, the Ombudsman
has automatically accepted Home Office submissions. This cosy relationship,
combined with their apparent incomprehension of the regulatory
system, means it's been easy for the Home Office to mislead
and manipulate the Ombudsman into letting them off the hook.
Action: Put the Ombudsman on the spot
Another useful action you could take to help us would be to
write to the Ombudsman's office yourself. You can email them at
firstname.lastname@example.org or write to them at:
and Health Service Ombudsman
In particular, you could ask them the following key questions
(which they have refused to answer so far):
Does the Ombudsman accept that, in assessing whether the
primates' suffering exceeded the 'moderate' severity limit
(paragraph 13), that it has confused the harm caused by 'death
in itself' with the harms caused in the Imutran case where
death (or indeed a collapsed or moribund state) was the endpoint.
In other words it has confused the severity of procedures where
animals are put down while still under anaesthesia (i.e. not
conscious for any part of the procedure), with this case, where
the animals were conscious and allowed to suffer for several
days until they died?
Can the Ombudsman explain why this specific, crucial point
was not considered in its review when - contrary to the Ombudsman's
assertion - it did indeed raise new issues as it was only put
forward by Uncaged in relation to the Ombudsman's report, rather
than as part of the original complaint?
Can the Ombudsman explain why it has suggested that Uncaged's
complaint is about the merits of the regulatory system itself,
when in fact it explicitly focussed on the way the Home Office
administered those regulations in this case? Was this derogatory
suggestion put to you by the Home Office?
Does the Ombudsman acknowledge that such a false apprehension
meant that it was prejudiced against Uncaged in its consideration
of the complaint?
The Ombudsman report reveals that it consistently deferred
to Home Office claims. Will the Ombudsman publish the submissions
it received from the Home Office in relation to this complaint,
and its analysis of such submissions? Please disclose records
of any other contacts with the Home Office.
Needless to say, if you have any questions do not hesitate to
contact us at email@example.com
Dr Dan Lyons, Uncaged Campaigns, 25 January