Open letter gathers widespread support

Posted on the 18th June 2020

Animal Aid today announces an open letter, signed by a number of groups, notable individuals and parliamentarians, which calls for a ban on the use of animals in warfare experiments. This has been sent to the Minister responsible for animal experiments.

The letter, co-ordinated by Animal Aid, and signed by animal advocates including Joanna Lumley, Benjamin Zephaniah, Sara Pascoe, Peter Tatchell, Carol Royle and Peter Egan, numerous groups and several MPs, is addressed to Baroness Williams of Trafford.

The letter highlights the terrible suffering involved in warfare experiments and focusses on the amount of pain and suffering which animals are known to experience at Dstl, Porton Down. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Animal Aid discovered that in 2019, of 1500 scientific procedures conducted at Dstl, 599 (39.93%) were classified as ‘severe’. The latest available figures (2018) for all the laboratories in Great Britain, revealed that 4.9% of animal experiments (known as ‘procedures’) were classed as ‘severe’. ‘Severe’ experiments involve the highest degree of pain and suffering permitted. The extraordinary level of suffering at Dstl is not a one-off event. In 2018, 30.2% of ‘procedures’ conducted there were severe.

Warfare experiments, highlighted previously by Animal Aid, have resulted in monkeys bleeding from their genitals and guinea pigs being exposed to VX, a deadly nerve agent, and then observed for symptoms such as ‘writhing’ and ‘gasping’.

Says Jessamy Korotoga, Campaign Manager at Animal Aid:

‘Dstl and its supporters repeatedly explain that it conducted less than 0.5% of the national total of animal experiments as if this makes everything alright. But it is inexcusable that Dstl is involved in such terrifyingly high levels of suffering. We know that, last year, almost 40% of the procedures conducted at Dstl involved the highest legally permitted category of pain, distress and suffering.

‘Animal Aid and the signatories of this open letter call on the responsible Minister to implement an immediate ban on warfare experiments on animals.’

Notes to Editors

Read the letter here

Dear Lady Williams of Trafford,

We, the undersigned, are extremely troubled by animal experiments in general and warfare experiments in particular. There is something especially dark and disturbing about experiments such as exposing living animals to nerve agents and watching to see if they writhe or gasp; shooting them in the eyes with pellets fired at almost 45 mph; or forcing them to inhale Ebola virus, leaving some animals bleeding from their genitals.(1-3)

Whilst it is not possible for researchers to conduct  experiments to develop or test offensive weapons, animals can still be exposed to nerve agents, viruses or even shot, in order to develop ‘countermeasures’. An animal’s suffering can continue for hours, days or weeks, until they die, or are killed. You may be aware that, in 2018 alone, at Dstl, Porton Down, 1,941 animals were experimented upon for warfare experiments. Whilst this does not place Dstl amongst the most prolific establishments for the number of animals used in experiments, it is chilling to note that in 2018, the proportion of experiments which fell into the most severe category was much higher than average. The highest level of pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm which is allowed is termed ‘severe’. Whilst the national average for ‘severe’ experiments, in 2018, was 4.9%, at Dstl, Porton Down, it was 30.2%.  

Since this letter was drafted, we have received the information that, in 2019, at Dstl, Porton Down, 1500 procedures were conducted. Of these, 599 were severe, which represents 39.9% of the procedures. 

We would therefore respectfully ask you to implement a policy ban, on warfare experiments on animals, immediately.

Yours sincerely,


Animal Aid

Animal Defenders International

Animal Interfaith Alliance

Animal Justice Project

Humane Society international

Lakeview Monkey Sanctuary

National Anti -Vivisection Society

Naturewatch Foundation



Quaker Concern for Animals

Voice for Ethical research at Oxford (VERO)

Wild Futures

Peter Egan

Joanna Lumley

Sara Pascoe

Carol Royle

Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

Professor Benjamin Zephaniah

Kenny MacAskill MP

Andrew Rosindell MP

Tommy Sheppard MP



  1. Mann, T.M et al (2017) ‘Bioscavenger is effective as a delayed therapeutic intervention following percutaneous VX poisoning in the guinea-pig’, Toxicology Letters, doi: 10.1016/j.toxlet.2017.11.029
  2. Thomas, C.N. et al (2019) ‘Retinal Ganglion Cells Die by Necroptotic Mechanisms in a Site-Specific Manner in a Rat Blunt Ocular Injury Model’, Cells, vol.8, doi:10.3390/cells8121517
  3. Smither, S. J. et al (2015) ‘Experimental Respiratory Infection of Marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) With Ebola Virus Kikwit’, Journal of Infectious Diseases, doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiv371

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