Thousands of animals blown up, poisoned or given anthrax in secret military experiments at Porton Down last year
By Steve Robson
Junior defence minister Philip Dunne revealed that almost 10,000 experiments were conducted on animals at military research base Porton Down last year
The number of animals being used for military experiments has increased by more than 1,000 in the last three years.
- Pigs, monkeys, rabbits and rodents used in ‘gruesome’ tests
- Minister Philip Dunne reveals number carried out in past three years
- Says the Government is acting in ‘strict accordance’ with the law
Almost 10,000 pigs, rabbits, monkeys and rodents were used in top-secret tests at the Porton Down military research base in Wiltshire last year, it has emerged.
The figures were revealed by junior defence minister Philip Dunne in response to Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock who raised concerns about the facility in parliament last month.
The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection highlighted ‘disturbing and cruel’ experiments which include live pigs being blasted with explosives and forced to inhale mustard gas, monkeys being infected with anthrax and guinea pigs being killed with nerve agent.
And the number of procedures being carried out is on the up.
Mr Dunne listed the number of animal procedures undertaken at DSTL Porton Down over the last three years.
The figure has risen from 8,452 in 2009 to 9,582 in 2010 and 9,882 last year.
Currently 21 licensed animal procedures are under way at Porton Down Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL).
Most of these fall into the ‘substantial’ severity category which may cause ‘significant or prolonged animal suffering’.
Lib Dem MP Mike Hancock said he was shocked by the number of animal experiments being carried out at Porton Down in Wiltshire every year
Six of the projects cover work funded directly by US defence agencies.
Mr Hancock said he was shocked by the statistics which, until now, were never made generally public.
He said: ‘I was shocked to learn that almost 10,000 animal experiments are taking place at Porton Down every year, including ones inflicting substantial levels of suffering.
‘The details were not included in the annual statistics published by the Home Office and many people will be totally unaware that this suffering is occurring.
‘It is important that the Ministry of Defence routinely gives more information on its use of animals so the public can be fully informed.’
Mr Dunne stressed that DSTL operates in ‘strict accordance’ with the Animals(Scientific Procedures) Act.
‘All the research projects that involve animals are licensed by the Home Office. As part of the licensing process, the researchers have to convince the Home Office that the work is required, that the results cannot be obtained without the use of animals and that every step has been taken to minimise pain and suffering to the animals involved,’ he said.
But BUAV chief executive Michelle Thew said: ‘It is alarming that almost 10,000 animal experiments for military purposes took place in 2011 and that many animals were subjected to the most extreme suffering categorised by the Government.
‘Some of the animal research conducted at Porton Down was even funded by the US defence agencies.
‘The BUAV is calling for an end to the use of animals, including monkeys and pigs in these gruesome experiments. We need to ensure the safety of soldiers and civilians but the answer does not lay in blowing up or exposing animals to lethal chemical warfare and nerve agents.’
Campaigners say the military research on animals such as pigs is ‘gruesome’ and any evidence it saves lives is ‘questionable’
All scientific experiments on animals, including those at Porton Down, have to be licensed by the Home Office under the proviso that suffering is minimised as much as possible.
Procedures are graded according to the severity of harm or suffering they inflict.
Of the 21 ‘active’ projects at Porton Down, four are ‘unclassified’, three are ‘mild’, six are ‘moderate’ and eight are categorised as ‘substantial’.
A moderate procedure may cause animals a ‘noticeable degree of pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm’, according to the Home Office definition.
Substantial severity ‘may cause a major departure from the animal’s usual state of health or well-being with significant or prolonged animal suffering’.
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