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ARCHIVE : Issue Three


THE SOUTH AFRICAN VETERINARY COVER-UP

 Following press reports that the Roodeplaat Research Laboratories (RRL) had conducted cruel experiments on animals during the testing of organophosphate poisons on baboons,  for the purpose of eliminating enemies of the State, the Animal Groups Alliance of South Africa wrote to the South African Veterinary Council in 1996 requesting that Prof. André Immelman, a former director of the RRL who had authorised the experiments, be removed from the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC), the purported watchdog over veterinarians' ethics.       

After many months of what might be perceived as hedging by the SAVC, the latter forwarded an affidavit from Immelman, countersigned by General Neil Knobel ex Defence Force Chief, to the effect that (a) the RRL had not been a front for the SADF (b) they admitted that organoposphate poisons had been tested on baboons in cruel experiments but that this had been  in line with international standards

(c ) the research had been of a defensive nature only (d) that no poisons had been developed for use on humans and (e) that Immelman, contrary to press reports, had not enriched himself in the process and was considering legal action against anybody who might suggest otherwise.         

Immelman's arrogance and posturing was later matched by the SAVC's threatening attitude towards a journalist who merely asked them why they did not act against this Council member.

The SAVC subsequently put out a statement that Immelman had been 'cleared of unethical conduct' as as his experiments had  'been in line with international standards.'  This was widely publicised in the Sunday Times under the heading; 'Vet cleared of unethical conduct.'  A much more balanced account was published in The Sunday Independent who pointed out that if the cruel experiments on baboons had indeed been for defensive purposes, then surely they would have been in the form of gases and not skin patches?  (An attempt had been made on the life of the Rev. Frank Chikane by means of organo phosphate poison dusted into his clothes and absorbed through the skin.)

At the subsequent Truth and Reconcilliation (TRC) hearings, one of Immelman's colleagues testified under oath that Immelman had  'told him that the military were furious over their failure to kill Chikane.'  The same colleague also described the hideous trinkets from the Roodeplaat treasure trove - a bomb-proof storeroom of toxins next to the office of Chief Scientist Dr. André Immelman, a top toxicologist.

But did the SAVC act in this matter?  Decide for yourself after reading the letter below.  Then send your letters of protest  to the SAVC at fax:  (012) 324 2394.     

                                                        


    


A MAJOR OVERHAUL OF THE SAVC NOW INDICATED

 During the Apartheid years, there was a call from some of the members of the medical profession for the South African Medical and Dental Council (SAMDC) to remove from the register those doctors who failed to render adequate treatment to the human rights activist Steve Biko.  It was an indictment on the Council that they failed to heed this, as quite clearly these doctors had not honoured the Hippocratic oath.  With the change of Government, there was a renewed call for action against these doctors and, indeed, there was a long overdue overhaul of the SAMDC.

 As a result of the TRC hearings, there was a call for disciplinary action against the medical doctors who had taken part in the Biological and Chemical Warfare programme.  As even the TRC pointed out, these people as well as those veterinary surgeons involved should have been saving lives, not taking them.

 The TRC's final report states that in addition to the obvious issues of professional culpability, negligence and criminal intent that apply to the other Roodeplaat scientists as well, it has to be said specifically of Immelman that he allegedly had full knowledge of the activities at the laboratories that were under his control.  

Is it therefore too much to ask that the SAVC should now take firm action against Immelman?  The SAVC still very much represents the mindset that pertained during the past and it is high time that there be a clean sweep and overhaul of this Council.  Perhaps then the general public will start to regain some respect for the veterinary profession of which the credibility lies in tatters.

 


THE ROLE OF ZOOS IN THE VIVISECTION INDUSTRY (2)

In  Snout 2, we described in detail the role which the Johannesburg Zoo played in 'laundering' animals for the vivisection labs.  The following sequence of events would point to the fact that this is not the only zoo which was  involved in such nefarious trade.

In April our Durban branch received a telephone call to the effect that the animals in the laboratories of the University of Durban-Westville (UDW) were being held under cruel conditions.  In particular, there were 22 Marmoset monkeys who were all that remained from an original batch of 44, sent to the UDW from London Zoo for  breeding purposes.  These monkeys were in urgent need of care and attention.  There was no qualified veterinarian in charge of this laboratory and the temperature was far too cold for these little primates whose natural habitat was the tropics.  In fact, two more died from pneumonia before SAAV could negotiate their release.

As this article is not about atrocities committed by the UDW, we will leave that part of the story for another time. Suffice it to say that after many months of negotiations and some pretty unflattering press reports the University agreed to re-home most of the marmosets to a shelter in the North of KZN.  But 5 marmosets were handed over to Mr. Jim Stockley who lives on a smallholding adjacent to the Natal Zoological Gardens outside Pietermaritzburg.  Stockley is related to the owners of Boswell Wilkie circus, who also own the zoological gardens.

However, when Rozanne Hurley asked Stockley if she could see the marmosets to check on their progress, this request was haughtely denied as was the information regarding their exact whereabouts.

Meanwhile, after learning some time prior to this that the South African Airways (SAA) was transporting primates from South Africa to overseas vivisection laboratories, Michele Pickover of our Johannesburg branch called for a boycott of the SAA, who subsequently confirmed in writing to her that this would no longer be their policy. And they appear to have been true to their word.

On the 26th February 1998 , the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) advised Michele Pickover of a fax they had received from the South African Airways Cargo to the effect that they had refused an application for the conveyance of 12 pairs of Marmoset Monkeys on the services of  SAA to Charles River labs in Miami .  (Charles River Labs is one of the more notorious animal breeding facilities.)  According to the very factual video Hidden Crimes, the Charles River specialises in supplying custom made animals to laboratories.  By the time some animals are sold to a research facility some of  them have already suffered through as many as 17 different operations - that is before the experimentation begins.)  The SAA had refused the application as they were not satisfied that these monkeys would be used for  'Behavioural Research' as stated on the documentation.  The exporter was Bester Birds and Animals in Pretoria , on behalf of Jim Stockley in Pietermaritzburg

When the Pretoria Branch of SAAV contacted Mike Bester of Bester Birds and Animals, he stated telephonically that he himself had withdrawn the application for their transport to the Charles River , on finding out that the Charles River was a laboratory and not a private person, as he had thought at the time.  This was contrary to the SAA's version of the incident.  He also informed SAAV Pretoria that he was starting a zoo.  He has since been granted a permit to do so.  And so the plot thickens.

Bearing in mind that it is fairly easy to 'launder' animals in international zoo-to-zoo transfers, this is a matter of grave concern to SAAV.

                              


                                 'CURIOSER AND CURIOSER'

                                                     cried Alice

In a submission to the TRC by the Netherlands Institute for Southern Africa (NIZA) and according to Dieter Gerhardt who spied on South Africa , a biological weapon capability was established at the Institute of Virology in Johannesburg and the Onderstepoort Veterinary School near Pretoria .  This was prior to the establishment of the South African Defence Force's front company Roodeplaat, around 1983, of which the directors were for the most part drawn from the Onderstepoort Veterinary   School .  (It is now widely known that the South African government was doing research on an impotence drug with which they would target the black population.)

Issue No. 25 of the investigative magazine NOSEWEEK, mentions a series of coincidences regarding the former Dean of Onderstepoort, Professor Beyers Hofmeyr who, while at Onderstepoort, was also an officer in the S.A. Defence Force, working on secret projects.  According to an ex director of the RRL who was at Onderstepoort at the time, the Military had their operations at Onderstepoort until 1982 and moved to RRL when the State feared they would be found out.

When he retired from Onderstepoort in 1981, Hofmeyr moved into a full-time job in the Surgeon General's office - in fact, into an office right next to that of the then Surgeon General, Neil Knobel (who corroborated under Oath to the Veterinary Council, Immelman's statement that Roodeplaat Research Labs (RRL) had not been a front for the SADF.)  Hofmeyr stayed there for the next ten years nd finally left the army just at a time when Basson's secret projects were closed down.  This was also around the time when the RRL was liquidated and the mysterious BIOCON Research Labs opened its doors down the road from the old RRL premises.  Two of the directors, the veterinary surgeons James Henry Davies and Stian Wandrag, were ex the RRL  (See 'Whatever happened to Jackie?' in Snout No. 2)

A further co-incidence was that around the time when Basson was arrested and applied for his testimony to be heard in camera, a letter appeared in a Natal newspaper, mentioning that there had been a military break-in at Onderstepoort, when about ten armed white men had removed the computer mainframe.

A newspaper reporter who subsequently enquired about this, was told by Onderstepoort that it had not been the computer main frame, but some minor equipment that had been stolen.  (In a military style break-in?  Ed)

The full truth about this dark era will probably never be known.

What concerns us is that hidden behind all this there are animals who suffered the tortures of hell during biological and chemical warfare experiments, under the supervision of veterinary surgeons.

And the fact that the SAVC has not seen fit to condemn this practice.

                                               


                 DREAMS OF DR. FRANKENSTEIN

It is said that everybody is entitled to 15 minutes of fame.  Dr. Derek Attfield of the Pretoria Biomedical Centre, flagship of the Medical School of the University of Pretoria , had his when he achieved an interview with YOU magazine.  Under the heading Dreams of Dr. Frankenstein, Attfield expounded the benefits of head transplants in humans.

 Those of us who have so far retained our heads intact will remember Attfield as the recipient of the coveted SAAV 1995 Vivisector of the Year Award.  To quote Attfield: "The brain can live with blood supply to only one side."

 

After all, he should know.





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