Animal protection charity Cruelty Free International has uncovered experiments being conducted by the British military on pigs and other animals.
The recent experiments, funded by the Ministry of Defence, took place at the Porton Down military research base in Wiltshire, and include pigs being shot and rabbits blasted with compressed air, among other tests.
The site first opened in 1916 to serve as a base for Royal Engineers' experiments with chemical weapons.
According to a Freedom of Information request, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down conducted 3,249 experiments on animals in 2015, including 116 experiments on guinea pigs, 58 on pigs and 57 on non-human primates.
Details of experiments carried out at Porton Down and obtained from recently published papers describe how pigs and rabbits were injured with captive bolt pistols and air compressors to simulate blast injuries and how guinea pigs were poisoned with toxic nerve agents.
Cruelty Free International is calling on the government to halt what it considers to be unnecessary and cruel experiments on animals being conducted in the name of defence.
Cruelty Free International claim pigs have been shot as part of military experiments. Picture: Montgomery County Planning Commission
Some of the experiments conducted at Porton Down and recently published in scientific journals include:
- To attempt to simulate the effects of severe trauma and shock experienced by soldiers on the battlefield, female pigs were subjected to blast injuries and resuscitation attempts under surgery. The pigs had their spleens removed and were then shot four times with a blunt, captive bolt pistol, to create a severe muscle injury in their back thigh. They were then drained of blood through one of the implanted tubes in their leg over a 10-minute period. In an attempt to study resuscitation efforts on injured soldiers on the way to the hospital, the pigs underwent aggressive resuscitation techniques before ultimately being killed.
38 white rabbits were blasted with compressed air to injure their legs, in an attempt to find out if blast injuries to the limbs, caused by explosions on the battlefield, result in damage to cells lining the blood vessels. Each rabbit was anaesthetised and then subjected to 10 blast injuries between their knee and ankle. After being kept alive for 12 hours so that blood samples could be repeatedly taken from them, they were killed and dissected for further analyses.
- Guinea pigs were poisoned with a toxic nerve agent in an attempt to test the efficacy of a new drug as a treatment after exposure. Tubes hooked up to a syringe and pump were implanted into the necks of male guinea pigs and pulled through the skin in-between their shoulder blades. Two days later they were tested to find out how much of the drug would kill them. Soman, an extremely toxic chemical substance, or the test drug was injected and blood samples repeatedly taken from an implanted catheter. The guinea pigs with the highest dose of the test drug suffered from respiratory failure, leading to death in just 30 minutes. Guinea pigs who received a lower dose struggled to breath and became paralysed. Two-thirds of the guinea pigs poisoned with soman died from the effects within 24 hours. The surviving animals were killed by having their necks broken.
Like Roswell and Area 51 in the US, Porton Down has also been associated with UFOs (Picture: Aerial shot of Porton Down from Flickr AJC1)
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science at Cruelty Free International, said:
"We all want to ensure the safety of soldiers and civilians, but we do not believe that subjecting animals to such cruel and disturbing experiments is the way to achieve this. The level of suffering animals endure in military experiments conducted at Porton Down is completely unacceptable."
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence has responded to the controversy:
"Our Armed Forces could not be provided with safe and effective protective measures without this research. We are committed to reducing the number of animal experiments and they are only undertaken where there are no alternatives. All of our animal experiments are fully licensed by the Home Office."
Porton Down has in the past gained notoriety for human experiments.
Three ex-servicemen won a case in 2006 to get compensation for having been given LSD without their consent at Porton Down in the 1950s.
A second inquest in 2004 also found that 20-year-old RAF engineer Ronald Maddison had been unlawfully killed at the park in 1953.
Maddison had been paid, along with other volunteers, to participate in an experiment to measure the effects of sarin, a nerve agent, on humans.
Cover photo courtesy of Peter Facey.