Hunger striker's friends `exaggerated' suffering

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The Independent Online
REPORTS by friends of the hunger striker Barry Horne about his condition were "flawed and inaccurate", a hospital spokesman said yesterday.

The comments came after speculation that Horne's fast had been a charade, with animal-rights activists seeking to apply extra pressure on the Government by exaggerating his suffering and predicting his imminent death. There were also rumours that Horne had been taking sustenance during the 68- day protest.

A spokesman for York district hospital confirmed that, in its view, Horne - serving an 18-year jail sentence for arson - had not taken any food during the fast. But he added: "Information given to the press by his supporters has always been flawed and inaccurate."

He also made clear that, on admission to the hospital last month, Horne had chosen to re-hydrate himself by taking sweetened tea for 36 hours, and then fruit juice for a further three-and-a-half days, before returning to taking only water.

Horne was moved from the hospital back to Full Sutton prison last Thursday after refusing further treatment. He was re-admitted to the hospital after calling off the strike at 4.30pm on Sunday, and his condition was said to be improving yesterday. He is now taking sweetened tea, soya milk and vitamin supplements.

At various times over the past 10 days his supporters claimed he had gone deaf, blind, had suffered liver damage and that his body was consuming his internal organs.

The hospital spokesman said that when Horne left them last week he had suffered "no irreversible damage".

Sources at the prison said yesterday that they had been surprised at what a good condition he was in. A new power point had been installed in the medical wing so that he could watch television.

"You don't normally do that if you are blind," said the source.

Tony Humphries, a friend of Horne's and a campaigner with the Animals Betrayed Coalition which supported him during the action, dismissed "ludicrous" suggestions that it had not been a proper hunger strike.

Horne launched his hunger strike to press for a Royal Commission on vivisection, but the Government consistently stressed that it would not give in to blackmail.

He finally abandoned the strike after seeing proposals for new co-operation between the Animal Procedures Committee, which oversees animal experiments, and the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare, a cross-party group of MPs.

"This has got the potential to be a major step forward, as long as Labour don't try and con us again," said Mr Humphries.