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.

Weak Ombudsman?

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


Pig operation
Credit: Organ Farm

"The Home Office's conduct has been consistently dishonest and contemptuous towards any scrutiny or control of vivisection."














Baboon operation
Credit: Organ Farm

The Politics of 'Alice in Wonderland'

"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean," says Lewis Carroll's Humpty Dumpty. The deliberate disconnection of rhetoric from reality is the hallmark of the Home Office's utterances on Diaries of Despair.











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