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Read the secret history of xenotransplantation experiments



news release


This week marks the tenth anniversary of the biggest exposé of animal experimentation in British history. In September 2000 Uncaged published leaked confidential documents and a report called 'Diaries of Despair' describing Imutran's pig-to-primate organ transplant experiments at HLS. These monumental revelations hold vital lessons at this critical point in the struggle against vivisection.

The title 'Diaries of Despair' referred to the harrowing observations for hundreds of monkeys and baboons as they died following the xenograft procedures. One monkey which had a pig heart attached to the blood vessels in its neck was seen holding the transplant which was "swollen red" and "seeping yellow fluid" for most of the last days of its life.

Animals are described as "quiet", "huddled", "shivering", "unsteady" and "in spasm". Some had swellings, bruising or were seen with blood or pus seeping from wounds. Others vomited, or suffered from diarrhoea.

The documents also revealed collusion between Home Office Inspectors and researchers, monkeys dying in transit due to illegal transport boxes and a research programme that turned out to be a 'blind alley'. Imutran researchers had misled the public and scientific community with partial and exaggerated reports of their research. The scandal was also laid bare in a huge exclusive story in the Daily Express.

Imutran quickly went to court in a desperate attempt to gag us, naming me as a joint Defendant with Uncaged. But within a week, Imutran's closure had been announced by their owners Novartis Pharma. Our revelations about the awful truth of xenotransplantation research hugely discouraged scientists around the world from pursuing this macabre technological mirage.

After two and a half years we eventually forced Novartis to abandon their attempt at suppression. We won the right to publish hundreds of documents on the grounds that it is in the public interest to expose wrongdoing on the part of Imutran, HLS and the Government.

Although the Government refused to establish an independent enquiry and attempted to cover up the scandal, the documents published here represent the most extensive and reliable insight into the reality of animal experiments ever disclosed.

The Diaries of Despair scandal holds absolutely crucial lessons as the new European Union Directive comes into force through national laws over the next few years. We have discovered the barbaric abuse that researchers can commit when they are a law-unto-themselves. Yet animal researchers are now lobbying to rig the system in their favour - removing independent oversight and maintain secrecy so they remain free to inflict severe pain and suffering on animals in futile experiments.

This process of translating the Directive into national law is known as 'transposition', and represents the most crucial phase in the campaign against animal experiments for over a generation. The fate of tens of millions of animals is hanging in the balance. Your help in the coming months will be absolutely essential if we are to achieve a system that can save animals from cruel experiments and modernise research away from crude and outdated animal testing.

We will be reporting on the implications of the new Directive soon, together with calls for vital action as we ask the Government for a fair, open and progressive new regime. Meanwhile, it's time to take a deep breath and brace ourselves for the mother of all anti-vivisection struggles! You can give a vital boost to our preparations by making a donation today. The animal research lobby is very well funded so every pound you can contribute makes a real difference as we strive to save animals from their clutches.

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Uncaged Campaigns 28.09.10


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.