The British Government has made it very clear that they are the friends of animal research institutes and multinational pharmaceutical companies. This can be seen in the way they have waved the rules and regulations in planning procedures, company law and banking rules, amongst others, to the favour of these wealthy and powerful institutes. They have even changed the law on numerous occasions to make lawful protest against such institutions more difficult.
The message they give out is very clear – if you have money and influence then the British Government will do all they can to help you. But if you are a powerless victim of these institutions then they will turn their back on you, and if you try to defend and stop the suffering of those victims, they will throw everything they can at you to try to stop you.
It has long been the aim of the British Government to turn the UK into the leading scientific research country, with no thought for the animals who will be the victims of much of this research. The fact that there has never even been an independent review of the validity of vivisection, and that they are reluctant to let one happen, should set the alarm bells ringing. If they truly believed that torturing animals to death in the pursuit of scientific research actually worked, why are they so reluctant for such a review to take place?
The role of government in a democracy is to represent the will of the electorate; the government’s pre-election promises (on which the electorate have based their vote) are implemented once it has been voted in. However, when there is a clash between the interests of democracy and the interests of the pharmaceutical industry, democracy swiftly takes a back seat – a case in point being Labour’s pre-election promises regarding animal research.
The Pharmaceutical Industry Competitiveness Task Force (PICTF) was set up after a meeting in November 1999 between PM Blair and the big pharmaceutical guns: the CEOs of Astra Zeneca, Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham. The role of a resulting report by PICTF: to identify areas where the industry’s effectiveness could be streamlined within the UK business environment to maximise their power. Where Animal Welfare and Research were concerned, the implications of increasingly complex procedures for obtaining licences for animal research, coupled with the new Freedom of Information Act meant that the UK was not a comfortable environment for the growth of the vivisection industry.
In order to minimise any potential harm to the industry, Lord Sainsbury chaired a working group that discussed how to weaken vivisection regulations. The group made unilateral decisions on areas of policy which were strictly the jurisdiction of the Home Office and the Animal Procedures Committee; animal protection groups were completely excluded from these discussions. It is this Task Force, and the working group chaired by Lord Sainsbury, which is responsible for subverting Government policy on animal experimentation.
The result is that the regulatory framework for granting licences continues to be a rubber-stamping process, rather than one in which each application is closely scrutinised, confirming what anti-vivisectionists have always said. The “increasing complexity” that the drug companies complained of refers to the Labour pledges and policies insisting on highest possible welfare standards, ensuring animal use only where “essential” and that all vivisection establishments set up Ethical Review Processes (ERPs) to monitor vivisection research proposals and practices.
These pledges did not address the fundamental moral and scientific imperative for the abolition of vivisection but did represent a potential for increasing the level of consideration given to animals when vivisection licence applications were being assessed. The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 requires the harms that animals will suffer from an experiment to be weighed against the supposed benefit that would accrue to humans from the research.
The PICTF Report claims that “streamlining licencing procedures” will lead to improvements in animal welfare. Conversely, the collusion between Government and Pharm industry has ensured that Labour’s pre-election promises will not be met. It has shown contempt for the law and has set the stage for more experiments of greater severity to be conducted on animals. The report has tried to block the application of the Freedom of Information Act to animal experiments and further recommended that the ABPI be consulted whenever a Government policy was being considered which might affect the drug industry. An additional appendix suggests that the drug industry examine ways to dismantle animal welfare regulations blocking the progress of pharmacology in the UK.
Tony Blair’s contribution in the form of a foreword to the PICTF report cements the association and conspiracy between government and pharmaceutical companies to pervert democracy: “A key feature in maintaining the UK’s attractiveness as a location for investment will be effective partnership at the highest levels between Government and industry. That is why I am delighted at the work and outputs of the PICTF.”
The PICTF also aims to pervert policy in a number of other areas such as the NHS, education, clinical research, and the assessment of the safety and effectiveness of new drugs. Not only will animal testing policy be dictated by the drug industry, but health, education and economic policy are to be formulated in the corporate interest rather than the public interest, overturning the principles of democracy in the process. A chilling prospect indeed.
The Labour government in the UK came to power in 1997 promising a clean break from the years of Conservative rule and a new era of accountable government which kept its promises. Among the promises on animal issues, they had pledged to reduce and eventually end animal experiments. However, once in power the Blair government came under the influence of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.
A pledge to establish a Royal Commission to investigate the validity of vivisection and professional malpractice within the industry was shelved and no convincing alternative was offered to take its place. The reneging on promises did not end there.
Evidence provided by undercover investigations to demonstrate the extent of malpractice, extreme animal suffering and shoddy science behind the walls of vivisection laboratories has been ignored by the Home Office.
Instead, faced with this catalogue of irrefutable evidence, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) asked the government to organise a pro-vivisection advertising campaign; this, naturally, to be funded by us, the taxpayers.
It was also the DTI that opened up an account with the Bank of England on behalf of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a company exposed time and again for shocking animal cruelty, as well as for falsifying records of experiments on animals and thus putting human life at risk as well over a period of decades.
Not only have they broken their promises regarding animal testing, but under the Labour Government the number of animal experiments have actually increased for the first time in almost 30 years, the largest total of procedures since 1994, meaning under this government the number of experiments annually is larger now than when they came to power. And this trend is on the increase as transgenic animals become increasingly popular for researchers to use.
Much of this was a result of the heavy influence of one figure, an ex junior minister within the DTI, the ex science minister David (now Lord) Sainsbury. Sainsbury, a billionaire who has extensive investments in the bio-tech industry, has donated over £11.5 million to the Labour party, which in effect bought him a life peerage and the influential role of science minister until he resigned just a few months after being questioned by police in the ‘cash for peerages’ inquiry.
Sainsbury, a Cambridge graduate, used his huge influence with Tony Blair, an Oxford graduate to try to push through the plans for more laboratories in the UK in defiance of democracy and public opinion. Now Gordon Brown is also seen to be a keen supporter of the wealthy and powerful pharmaceutical and medical research industries.
David (now Lord) Sainsbury is a crucial figure in the dispute over the building of the new primate research centre. Sainsbury is the key to why this government is so determined not only to build the primate laboratory, but also to impose GM crops and food products on the population, despite huge public opposition in both cases.
A multi-billionaire (he was once named as the third richest man in Britain in the Sunday Times Rich List), Sainsbury’s donations to the Labour Party since 1994 total over £11 million. This sum is said to have included £1m to help clear the party’s overdraft after the 1997 General Election campaign. (BBC Online September 8, 1999).
In the 1980’s he had famously helped bankroll the Social Democrats (SDP), but switched to Labour in the ’90’s following the collapse of the SDP/Liberal alliance, and Labour’s move to the right.
In 1997, less than 6 months after Labour came to power, David Sainsbury was duly rewarded for his generosity to Labour Party coffers. He was appointed to the House of Lords as Lord Sainsbury of Turville by Tony Blair. In July 1998, after further multi-million pound donations to the party, Sainsbury was drafted into the government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science, within the Dept of Trade and Industry (DTI). It was widely claimed he had in effect bought himself a place in the government and a life peerage, in a sinister echo of the sleaze which characterised the years of previous Conservative rule.
As well a substantial stake in his family’s supermarket empire and other large investments, he was also the owner of the biotech company Diatech, and he personally owned the world-wide patent rights over a key gene, called a ‘translator enhancer’, currently used in the genetic modification process. (The Guardian Feb. 16, 1999) It is the same gene at the centre of a food scare following tests on rats that were fed GM potatoes. The patent for this gene will create massive profits.
He also had an interest in the Sainsbury Laboratory, which is partly funded by a charity he set up. Since he became Science Minister, funding to this laboratory from a government quango has increased by 400%.
Sainsbury has the final say on who is appointed to this quango, called the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which has spent more than £18m on research into GM-related crops.
Eight out of 15 people appointed to this quango have connections to the pharmaceutical or biotech industry.
On being appointed to government, as an unelected minister, he was obliged to place all of his investments into a blind trust, where, in theory, he no longer has influence over how his investment portfolio is managed. However this is viewed with some scepticism by most commentators. The then shadow DTI minister said “It’s not a blind trust. David Sainsbury and the whole world knows that he has a big shareholding in the supermarket chain and we also know that he was an investor in two companies that are going to make money out of GM food.” (BBC Online, February 14, 1999).
Sainsbury’s appointment caused uproar among environmental and anti-GM campaigners, as well as opposition politicians, who viewed it as a serious conflict of interest.
The same is true of the Girton project. It is thought the proposed research centre will be directed, to a significant degree, in generating biotech products of a diagnostic and therapeutic class. The patents on such products could generate substantial income – irrespective of the ultimate utility or safety of the products in question.
Predictably Tony Blair personally leapt to the defence of the Labour Party ‘golden goose’. “Let me say two things. First of all with David Sainsbury, the hounding of him is unpleasant and wrong. There is no conflict of interest whatsoever, and he has followed the rules to the letter, as he should do”.
It should have been little surprise then when Sainsbury turned his attention to planned Cambridge University primate research centre.
In February 2001 the district council unanimously refused planning permission for the centre, largely because it would be built on green belt land, but in response to widespread local opposition on many issues.
Sainsbury, an ex-Cambridge University student, stepped in on the side of the university. He wrote to the council in his role as science minister, advising them they should ignore green belt legislation because the proposed research was in the “national interest”.
Tony Blair also weighed in on the side of university, no doubt influenced by Sainsbury’s continuing importance to Labour Party finances.
Even so, local councillors held firm and rejected the plans a second time, with only four voting in favour despite intense pressure from Sainsbury, Blair and the government.
The university then appealed to the national planning inspectorate, and there was a public hearing on the issue. Once again the government intervened and took the highly unusual step of sidelining the whole planning process and taking the decision themselves.
Sainsbury’s influence is now complete, as the government has hijacked the democratic and planning process, and will issue a decree on the matter at a time of their choosing.
This is a political scandal and an example of blatant government corruption, and should they succeed, the victims will be the many thousands of monkeys tortured and killed in the name of corporate profits and fraudulent science.
- Name: Lord David John Sainsbury of Turville
- Born: 24 October 1940
- Educated: King’s College Cambridge, Columbia University
- Family: Married, three daughters
o Joined J Sainsbury 1963, finance director 1973-90, chief executive 1992-7; Chairman of J Sainsbury plc and a Director of Giant Food Inc until July 1998. Finance Director of J Sainsbury plc from 1973 to 1990 and Deputy Chairman from 1988 to 1992. Substantial investments in many companies, several involved in genetic research.
- Trustee Social Democratic Party 1982-90
- Major benefactor of Labour Party 1994 to present, total donations estimated between £8.5 million and £11.5 million.
- Appointed by Tony Blair Lord Sainsbury of Turville in October 1997.
- Enters government in July 1998 as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science.
- Questioned by police in July 2006 in the “Cash for Peerages” inquiry, for a £2m loan to the Labour Party.
- Resigned as science minister on 10 November 2006
It’s Up to Us
Oxford University’s new animal torture lab is only in existence because of the money and expertise given to the project by the British Government from tax payers’ money. The university only had to pay the core cost, everything else comes straight out of the public purse, despite the fact that so many people are against such blatant misuse of public money going to fund animal suffering.
Time and time again we have seen that those in power do little for the animals and that it is the duty of right thinking individuals to band together to ensure that vivisection ceases, once and for all. We, and the animals, can only rely on ourselves to stop the suffering.