Animal Aid

'DIE-IN' - Protesters 'die' at Imutran protest

Posted 1 November 2002

Hundreds of protesters from around the country marched to the Home Office from the Embankment on September 21 to mark the second anniversary of the publication of a devastating exposé of organ swap experiments involving thousands of pigs and monkeys.

The experiments, commissioned by biotech company Imutran and carried out by Huntingdon Life Sciences, were described in thousands of internal company documents that were passed on to Uncaged Campaigns. The resulting Xenodiaries report, by Uncaged director Dan Lyons, was immediately the subject of a court injunction forbidding its circulation. Uncaged and Dan himself now face a potentially ruinous civil action for alleged breach of copyright and confidentiality.

The only information on the experiments that can currently be circulated was that contained in two Daily Express articles published before the gagging order was granted.

The monkeys' post-operative symptoms, the Express reported, included bloody vomit and faeces, spasms, shivering, and massive swellings at surgical wounds that leaked blood or pus. One monkey, who had a pig heart stitched on to his neck, was seen during the few days he survived holding his neck, which was swollen red and seeping yellow fluid.

The Express also reported evidence of massive incompetence and implausible public claims of progress despite the fact that monkeys with transplanted organs were typically surviving no more than a few days.

The Xenodiaries report was submitted to the Home Office and junior minister Mike O'Brien announced that there would be an investigation by the H.O. Inspectorate, overseen by the advisory Animal Procedures Committee. But O'Brien was overruled by then Home Secretary Jack Straw, who quashed the inquiry.

In response, Uncaged called for a full independent judicial inquiry and has gained support for its demand from more than 100 MPs and numerous public figures.

Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler joined Dan Lyons in addressing the impassioned September demo - which ended outside the Home Office headquarters. Here, the protesters - wearing monkey masks - staged a 'die-in' and left signed messages in books that were presented to Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The good news is that Uncaged has now been granted legal aid to take on Imutran at a case that - unless a settlement is reached in advance - is likely to begin in the New Year. Neither Imutran nor Huntingdon can be relishing what will be a very public legal battle.

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