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RCVS fail to silence criticism of vet vivisector
Posted 25 June 2007
An animal researcher, who was a recipient of an Animal Aid Mad Science Award (AAMSA), has failed in his attempt to get Animal Aid’s scientific consultant struck off the register of veterinary surgeons.
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), which initially appeared sympathetic to the complaint by a vivisector and vet based at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, was forced to back down after the national campaign group enlisted strong legal representation to fight the attempt to quash freedom of expression. Its lawyers questioned the legitimacy of the proposed RCVS ‘trial’, citing Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which upholds the right to speak out on matters of significant public concern and controversy.
The complaint against Andre Menache came from Dr Paul Hocking, himself a vet, who received his Mad Science Award in 2005 for causing deliberate and severe joint pain in chickens while testing anti-inflammatory drugs. Dr Hocking was notified of his AAMSA on January 11, 2006 but didn’t lodge his complaint with the RCVS until October 17, 2006.
He asked for Mr Menache to be struck off, claiming that he had made ‘derogatory’ and ‘intimidating’ comments about Hocking’s research.
Animal Aid’s legal team argued that the criticism of the research - which had been published in a veterinary journal - while robust, was not threatening or personally directed at Hocking. This contrasted with Hocking’s letter of complaint to the RCVS, which accused Mr Menache - an experienced veterinary surgeon, a holder of scientific degrees from two leading universities, and an author of articles published in numerous scientific journals - of having ‘no understanding of the basis for sound scientific research’. Animal Aid, furthermore, had deliberately refrained from using Hocking’s name, or those of any of the other AAMSA winners, in press releases or in other publicity concerning the awards.
The RCVS launched a full investigation into Hocking’s complaint, collecting numerous witness statements in an attempt to support his allegations. But after many months of inquiry by its Preliminary Investigations Committee, the RCVS finally threw out the complaint, admitting that there was nothing in the allegations that could call into question Andre Menache’s fitness to practise as a vet.
Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:
‘The RCVS appeared to be more concerned with shielding a vet who had deliberately inflicted severe pain on animals, than with defending the right of one of its members to speak out against such abhorrent behaviour. Without the assistance of our excellent legal team, Andre Menache could have been struck off. Animal Aid will not be intimidated into discontinuing with its robust and well considered criticism of animal research - not by the RCVS or by any other defender of a corrupt status quo.’