The Guardian publishes a scare-mongering story yesterday, Animal rights activist using FOI laws to target universities, which I suspect was planted by the animal industrial complex. The subtext is that people who have been arrested should not be allowed to use the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).
The requests were sent by Luke Steele, an animal rights activist based in Yorkshire. He was last year convicted of conspiracy to interfere with a contractual relationship, so as to harm an animal research organization, after being arrested near an isolated Lincolnshire farm that supplies rabbits for research.
The report does not go on to explain the outcome from Steele’s arrest. Presumably, he served his sentence and that’s the end of the matter.
So, what’s the problem? Is it illegal for Steele, who is (presumably) a British citizen entitled to use a law passed by the UK Parliament? Is it because he will use the information in an illegal manner? If so, let the law enforcement authorities fulfill their responsibilities and deal with it providing it’s remembered that someone is innocent until proven guilty.
This principle would appear not to matter to an anonymous “university scientist.”
The most likely motivation here is that they want to catch somebody out. If they can find some bad wording in minutes from a meeting, then they can use that to claim we are up to no good.
Well, isn’t that democracy in action? Further, is it likely that Steele will discover something of earth-shattering importance? Maybe. Maybe not. Another anonymous source stated.
This [the FOI requests] has caused a great deal of concern among our staff who are worried about receiving threats or worse. Most scientists faced with FOI requests are happy to put stuff into the open and welcome the scrutiny, but in this case they are having to second guess the motives of people who might use this information.
But The Guardian concludes
Some of the information requested by Steele is already published, in summaries of Home Office licenses and academic papers. Other details, such as specific laboratory locations, can be refused under FOI exemptions.
So, again, what’s the problem? Someone exercising their democratic right?
Shame on The Guardian for publishing such transparent rubbish.