Experience of the past should remind us that governments - no matter what their persuasion- are great at making pre-election promises in order to get themselves into power, but once in the coveted position, will only deliver on them if they see potential political gain or if they are pushed so hard they cannot resist. A case in point is that of the Blair government who have proved to be no different. Promised a clean break from the years of Conservative rule and a New Era of accountable government which kept its promises, voters are still awaiting evidence of integrity from their new "Voice of the People". Promises regarding major animal welfare reforms for this country have proved no less shambolic than other manifesto hype and vote snatching tactics.
Indeed, in its first term of office, the Blair government not only broke most of its promises concerning animal welfare reform but it also strove to marginalize and criminalise law abiding Animal Rights Campaigners. A pledge to establish an independent 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, shoddy science and extreme animal suffering behind the walls of vivisection laboratories was ignored by Jack Straw's Home Office. Instead, faced with this catalogue of irrefutable evidence, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) asked the government propaganda wing - the Central Office of Information - to organize a pro-vivisection advertising campaign-ie: a brainwashing exercise on behalf of a corrupt, cruel and powerful industry; 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 responsible for falsifying records of experiments on animals as well as inflicting appalling suffering on animals in their charge over a period of decades. Far from their promised target of setting up a Royal Commission on Vivisection, Labour now propose a fast track approach for the approval of new vivisection projects which will strip the animals further of the little protection they have at present (courtesy of science minister Lord Sainsbury who previously had a stake in a Biotech company and who made a gift of £2 million to the Labour party). Meanwhile, weapons research on animals is on the increase (so that we can kill more efficiently) and tobacco related tests continue, despite availability of both conclusive evidence that smoking damages health as well as pre-1997 promises to ban such tests ; even more worrying still is that the use of genetically modified laboratory animals is soaring, with both government approval and financial support. Last but not least, hunting has failed to make a sufficient impact on the political agenda and continues to be an issue despite an overwhelming majority of the British people being against it.
Labour's duplicity and failure to make good in this and other areas was precisely the reason which forced Barry Horne to make an uncompromising choice - to barter with the only weapon left him in prison - his life; he believed that lying in order to gain power was cheating both the voters and the democratic process the government swore to uphold and that a pledge made to voters should not be shelved indefinitely for reasons of political expediency. Despite the months he was forced to endure on his hunger strikes, the final of which, in his weakened state after so many, led to his death he clearly continued - publicly at least - to believe in the power of one to change things. What Barry asked for was that the government keep their election promise of establishing a Royal Commission to look into the real validity of animal experimentation, and the unlawful behaviour perpetrated by both individuals and entire establishments in the name of science. In order to silence the thorn in their political side towards the end of his longest and most public hunger strike, noises were made by the powers that be that it would be looked into. It never was. Labour's failure or refusal to keep its pre-election promises was what ultimately killed Barry. As elected representatives of a democracy, his life was in their hands, a responsibility they chose to ignore in characteristically cavalier fashion.