|Credit: BUAV. Top: J Creamer / NAVS
|"The University's case, he said, could be summarised
as: 'it works because we say it works' "
|"Science should work on the basis of evidence
not by a vote through the old boy network"
|"Someone qualified to conduct primate experiments
would not be allowed to operate on a pet monkey"
Our Triumphant Performance
Two weeks of witness evidence came to a close on
6th December 2002. The government-appointed inspector who has presided
over the public inquiry heard closing submissions
on 8th January 2003 from barristers of the main parties.
Stuart Nixon will now write his report and make his recommendation,
but Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, has decided that the final decision
will be his. The outcome might not be known for seven or eight months.
Animal Aid, the NAVS, Uncaged, PETA and Naturewatch worked alongside
X-CAPE for joint written and oral submission. Our evidence, it has to
be said, was of the highest quality. And the two principal organisations
- Animal Aid and NAVS - worked together effectively and harmoniously.
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection made a parallel presentation
to the inquiry, based on the shock findings of its Cutting
Edge undercover investigation of primate research at Cambridge University
The "coalition's" scientific witness was Dr Ray Greek MD, medical
director of Europeans for Medical Advancement and co-author of two ground-breaking
books on the failings of the 'animal model' for human medical research.
(See Proof of Evidence.)
Dr Greek, supported energetically by the coalition team, brilliantly
demolished the case put forward by Cambridge University, which hopes to
conduct hundreds of lethal brain experiments on monkeys every year. Through
such traumatic experiments, the university claims it will be able to advance
the understanding of specifically human neurological conditions such as
Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and depression.
In two and a half hours of scientific evidence and another two hours
of cross examination, Dr Greek cited a succession of scientific papers
to support his case. He noted that the University had made rash assertions
but had provided no solid evidence that the proposed labs would be in
the national interest. The University's case, he said, could be summarised
as: 'it works because we say it works'.
Dr Greek's other key points included:
- While animals and humans are similar at the gross level, the key differences
lay at the molecular level - especially in the way regulatory genes
determine responses to drugs or diseases.
- Science should work on the basis of evidence not by a vote through
the old boy network - the theories of Einstein, Darwin and other great
thinkers were once rejected.
- Scientists are so scared to speak out against their employers and
the scientific establishment that one researcher resorted to having
his face blacked out and his voice disguised for a television debate
about the use of animals in research.
- The use of chimpanzees for Aids research in the USA has been discredited
because it has provided no gains.
- Someone qualified to conduct primate experiments would not be allowed
to operate on a pet monkey.
- We've got rid of blood-letting and mesmerism, now it is time to get
rid of animal experiments.
- A US congressman has noted that much medical research is now being
conducted to attract funds rather than funds being sought to conduct
The University's star QC, Robin Purchas, failed to dent Dr Greek's case.
An increasingly irritated Purchas also made no impact upon the meticulously
constructed evidence offered by Animal Aid/NAVS' planning expert, Anthony
Keen, who followed Dr Greek onto the stand on the final day of witness
Anthony argued that the university had not made sufficient effort to
find an alternative, non Green Belt site, and that the proposed development
- the size of two retail superstores - would almost certainly result in
harm to the visual and rural character of the area.
Concerns about security would likely result in the introduction of eyesore
measures such as metal gates, barbed wire and floodlighting.
The first day of the inquiry's second week was also a key day for opponents
of the scheme. The Inspector allowed a wide range of expert, non-expert
and local speakers to take the witness stand. All those who spoke opposed
the planned centre.
- Professor Claude Reiss, representing Doctors and Lawyers for
Responsible Medicine, explained that 'no species can stand
as a biological model for another species'.
- An impassioned Greg Avery of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty
(SHAC) insisted that, despite Cambridge University's statements to the
contrary, his group would actively oppose the new centre, should it
- Cyril Rosen, Honorary Secretary of the UK branch of the International
Primate Protection League, warned of the serious potential
risk to local people of monkey-borne viruses.
- Margaret Wright, principal national speaker for the Green
Party, lamented that 'the Green Belt is now seen as an impediment
to those who seek urban expansion'.
- Sue Hughes spoke on behalf of hundreds of local residents
who have signed petitions against the plans.
- Joan Court, Cambridge graduate and founder of Animals, People
and the Environment (APE), said that many more people, herself
included, would engage in civil disobedience if the centre is built.
- The bursar of Girton College worried that ongoing
protests would increase the risk of traffic accidents, heighten security
costs and threaten the college's conference business.
- The Reverend Dharmavidya said the proposal would
be a regressive move in a progressive society, shifting the ethical
bounds in the wrong direction.
- Lynn Sawyer spoke movingly of her injurious experiences
at the hands of Cambridge's police and how they served to strengthen
her resolve to fight even harder for the animals.
- Professor Greenwood of the London School of Economics,
a Cambridge graduate and local resident, was incensed by the lack of
consultation by the university and the dismissive way locals have been
- Dr Jerry Vlasak of the Physician's Committee for Responsible
Medicine - a US-based group representing more than 5,000 physicians
- said that the lab would generate volumes of useless data at vast expense
to the taxpayer and of no value to patients.
- Pam Ferdin of the California-based Primate Freedom Project
said she would be calling for a US-wide tourist boycott of Cambridge
if the centre was built.
- Louise Owen spoke on behalf of the Medical Research Modernisation
Committee and of Seriously ill Against Vivisection
on the harm caused by the continuing use of the animal model and the
betrayal of patients it represents.
- Annabel Holt said the enterprise would be a betrayal
of knowledge and of humanity.
The day began with evidence from Michelle Thew, director of BUAV, including
a screening of their powerful Cutting Edge
undercover exposé. This revealed the
horror and futility of primate research at Cambridge University itself.
The inquiry has already attracted major articles in the New
Scientist, Guardian, Observer,
Independent, Daily Telegraph
and Express, as well as much national and local
television and radio coverage.
One of the hearing's most surprising aspects was the unprofessional written
and oral evidence presented by Cambridge University itself. Apart from
offering no detailed expert material on why its proposed experiments would
supposedly benefit human medicine, the university failed to demonstrate
that it had properly studied alternative, non-Green Belt sites.
Set against the quality of our own submissions, a positive outcome should,
in all justice, be assured. But John Prescott - who ultimately decides
- is Deputy to a Prime Minister who months ago offered public support
for the proposed centre. Support has also been forthcoming from Science
Minister and biotech business mogul, Lord Sainsbury.
Knowing that a political fix potentially awaited us, it was still essential
that we made as a good a case as possible - which is what we did. How
Prescott decides will tell us a great deal about the moral bearings of
this Labour government.
Closing submissions >>