Interviews

Part of an Interview with Louise Mclean

Published by Zeus Information in 2005

When Martin Walker published his fifth book in 1993 - 

Dirty Medicine: Science, big business and the assault on natural health care
, it sent shock waves through the natural healthcare industry. He set up Slingshot Publications to publish this book and others for writers having difficulties getting their books published by mainstream publishing houses. Louise Mclean talks to Martin about his books, his views and his writing.

 

Many people believe there is presently a worldwide move through Codex Alimentarius to outlaw natural therapies and remedies. The first phase of these has been implemented through the EU Food Supplements Directive, with the Herbal and Medicines Directives to follow. In your book Dirty Medicine you outlined some of the strategies used by the pharmaceutical industry to discredit alternative medicine. What do you think is going on at the moment?

 

When I was writing Dirty Medicine from 1988 to1993, I don't think I realised the importance of the attack on vitamins and mineral supplements. Only recently have I understood that the people attached to the Campaign Against Health Fraud (now called HealthWatch) in the UK and the American National Council Against Health Fraud (NCAHF) in America were only the first wave of a more, powerful and centrally organised attempt to control vitamin and mineral supplements. I tended at that time I was writing Dirty Medicine to view the people I was writing about as rather quirky individuals who were in favour of professional medicine, biased towards scientific medicine and the pharmaceutical companies, but not as people supported by multinational agencies involved in a continuous conflict over supplements and holistic health therapies.

 

Of course now that the plan has been unveiled, I can see that the organisation of CAHF and NCAHF was the first stage in a war. The techniques they were using - the character assassination of alternative practitioners and researchers, the commissioning and planting of press stories, the linking up with more formal agencies like the FDA and the MHRA, raiding premises, striking people off professional registers, bringing people before disciplinary board hearings, conducting bogus scientific trials, and undeclared work with large corporations. All these things were linked to a kind of regulatory ground clearing exercise. Now, a legislative battle is taking place on a different level and involving whole groups of countries.

 

The pharmaceutical cartel are losing money worldwide to natural health care. They don't really want people to get better by themselves when they could be taking pharmaceutical medicine?

The chemical and pharmaceutical companies would like to retain hegemony over the social structure of health and medicine. It isn´t that they want to do away with vitamins and food supplements, it´s that they want to control production and distribution of these things to maximise profit. The fact that they are campaigning to end self administration of vitamins, minerals and food supplements would not stop them from putting them in food, for instance. They want to control pre-packaged distribution of vitamins and if they could put them in foods, shirts, lipsticks or patches or whatever, they will do that. They also want to end the confusion that has arisen between nutrition and medicine and they want to end any evident connection between nutrition and health so that in the public perception, health is dependent only upon professional medicine and pharmaceutical products.


Tell me more about the other books Slingshot has published or is going to publish?

 

When I published Dirty Medicine in 1993 I set up Slingshot Publications and it was my intention to publish my own books. Dirty Medicine went out of print in 1998 after selling 7, 000 copies mainly by mail order.

In 1998 I published a small booklet about Loic Le Ribault, an important French forensic scientist, mercilessly denigrated by the French State and by medical interests because he discovered the use of organic silica as a medicine for arthritis. I wrote a short booklet about him and he has since published his own series of books about his struggles and two terms of imprisonment.

 

Around 1999 or so, I thought that I would actually like to publish other people's work as well. In December 2002 Slingshot published 

A Cat in Hell's Chance, a campaigners view of the battle to close Hill Grove Farm in Oxfordshire, which bred cats for vivisection. There are no good aspects of vivisection or chemical testing and they have to absolutely abolished, they cannot be reformed. Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), the campaign against Huntington Life Sciences is the way forward, attacking companies and the industry on every front while trying to cut off their financial backing and productive infrastructure.

 

One of the things that has always been of interest to me is the generational continuity of ideas, especially political ideas. So I thought it would be a good idea to publish some of the original texts which had a great impact on people. I offered to reprint an English language edition of Hans Ruesch´s ground-breaking and seminal anti-vivisection book Slaughter of the Innocent, which we did in 2003.

Although it was first published over 20 years ago in 1979, this book still gives you a sense of direction today. It was very difficult to re-publish, we had to create an electronic manuscript for it which meant copying every page with data recognition technology. Then it all had to be typeset again in the original form, so that there was continuity of the references.

Despite the fact that testing on a mouse or rat cannot have any real bearing on how a drug will affect a human and can lead to adverse reactions when given to humans, there are more animals being experimented on today than ever before.

The New Labour government has reneged on its anti-vivisectionist vote-catching rhetoric because they are so heavily indebted to and entrenched with the pharmaceutical multinationals. They can't back down from the position the chemical and pharmaceutical companies demand and that is why millions of animals continue to be slaughtered every year.


Testing of chemicals on animals is growing in Britain and America. When it comes to the questioning of a particular chemical, which has been known to be carcinogenic for a long time, the solution that has occurred to the chemical companies is to get full scale massive animal testing trials for that chemical. This means that they can put off making decisions for at least 5 or 6 years, which gives them another 5 or 6 years' profit and another 5 or 6 years' unaccountable deaths, while we wait for these massive animal slaughtering exercises to be carried out. Then of course there is another 5 or 6 years in implementing any reforming regulations.

Buying time?

If the tests prove to be unequivocally against the chemical, no doubt the chemical companies will come up with bizarre arguments such as: 'Oh well, you can't rely on animal testing, can you? It's not the same as human physiology'. Which is what they have said in the past. Then you get another 5 years of: 'How can we test chemicals on humans?' or 'How can we collate anecdotal stories of the effect of chemicals on humans?' and 'Let's have a think about this and find some way of doing it'. Then there's another 5 years and it just goes on indefinitely.

Talking of chemicals, I believe you wrote a paper about the epidemiologist, Sir Richard Doll and his work on the (lack of a) link between cancer and the vinyl chloride industry, while he was a consultant for Monsanto, at that time one of the major producers of vinyl chloride?

Yes, it is one of two papers I wrote over the last couple of years about the contemporary role of medical epidemiologists. I am very interested in writing about the connection between the life of the professional and those larger agencies in society which have power and which determine power and the direction of society. One of the best works on asbestos for example, is the book by Geoffrey Tweedale, called From Magic Mineral to Killer Dust. It isn't just about the company that manufactured asbestos or about the scientists who agreed the toxic and regulatory levels for asbestos fibre. It's about a whole nexus of social, scientific and economic factors.

 

There is a real problem with much contemporary writing about health, in that it is over-simplistic, written by people who are trying to push a particular theory or aspect of health. Sociologically or in relation to campaigns, such work is useless because it don't take into account the whole of the social structure that surrounds that illness or therapy.

 

Can you tell us about companies and organisations that are set up to allay the fears of the public on health and environmental issues but are really working for the benefit of chemical and pharmaceutical industries?

 

Up until the end of the'80s, if a company wanted to deflect public criticism, in the area of health, it would set up its own propaganda arm, creating an institute or some kind of lobby organisation that was probably part of a PR company. Towards the mid-1990s, a lot of critics, commentators and journalists began to see these organisations for what they were. You couldn't just run a fake institute that published good news about your industry without somebody finding out the financial links between the industry and that institute.

So in the mid-1990s, a number of companies came into being which were problem solving companies. A part of these companies' briefs entailed finding technical, scientific or mechanical solutions to industry or company problems. Another part of their work however, involved solving problems of 'consumer perception' faced by a particular industry, company or product. So if the waste disposal industry had a problem with the public perception of Dioxin, for example, then the 'problem solving' company would take this on.

Their role is clearly similar to the one taken by PR companies in the past. The difference is that their approach is more integrated. These companies have their own epidemiologists, their own scientists, their own smaller agency companies. They have managed to integrate all of these areas into government structures as well. They receive government grants for various projects and are represented on peer review panels, etc. They carry on a more authoritative and aggressive protection of harmful products and a more determined attack on consumer and citizens' lobbies. These organisations are much more dangerous in terms of their defence of bad health products because you can't track them down easily.

 

Are you concerned about situations like Shaken Baby Syndrome and MMR court cases?

 

One idea that has come into focus for me recently, is to do with the intrusion of the State and medicine into the life of the family. I want to write more about this. The State and the medical profession these days seem to be taking great leaps and bounds into the previously accepted private area of the family. Ironically a direction which the British Conservative establishment was accusing communists, socialists and Labour followers of in the early part of the last century.

And, there is for example the HIV baby test case about whether the baby should be tested for HIV. And of course the whole trend in North America of legislating for pre-birth or even pre-pregnancy testing for possible hereditary illnesses. At the end of this continuum there is the overshadowing question of legislating for various kinds of genetic testing.

There are examples too in another of my books, SKEWED, regarding ME and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Cases are described where psychiatrists put children with ME in closed mental hospital facilities. In some cases the parents are arrested and in one case imprisoned because they were said to be inflicting false illness beliefs on their children. Some of the mothers were accused of having Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy.

 

It appears that we are entering an area where abuse becomes defined by doctors, not simply in criminal terms or in terms of violence or even mental cruelty but on the grounds that the parent disagrees with orthodox medicine. This is going in the wrong direction and appears to be part of a much larger plan for the medical profession, science and pharmaceutical interests to gain a greater hegemony over the family.

 


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