Secret military laboratory hides terrifying levels of animal suffering

Posted on the 9th January 2020

Animal Aid can reveal the horrific level of animal suffering at Dstl (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), Porton Down, the secret government laboratory.

A Home Office report for 2018 showed that, across the whole of Great Britain, 4.9% of animal experiments (known as ‘procedures’) were classed as ‘severe’ – the highest degree of pain and suffering permitted. A freedom of information act request reveals how:

  • The percentage of procedures in this category at Dstl, for the same period, was 30.2% – more than six times the national average.
  • In 2017, a shocking 50.5% of procedures at Dstl were in this category. The animals who underwent this horrific suffering included monkeys, guinea pigs, rats and mice.

Illustrations of the types of harrowing research conducted at Dstl can occasionally be found in published, scientific papers. Animal Aid has analysed a 2017 paper, which describes experiments involving a virus called EEEV (Eastern equine encephalitis virus). The paper revealed how:

  • A strain of EEEV was injected through the skulls of 2-3 day old ‘suckling mouse pups’, into their brains.
  • Once these babies were ‘moribund’ (24 hours after the injection), they were killed.
  • Their brain tissue was removed with a syringe and treated so it could be aerosolised and other mice exposed to it.
  • Up to 20 mice at a time were exposed, being ‘physically restrained in holding tubes’ where only their nose was exposed to the virus.
  • A clinical scoring system, used by the researchers, included breathing being ‘extremely laboured or fast’, ‘pronounced tremors or shaking’, ‘extreme activity’, ‘spinning’ animals being immobile ‘despite provocation’, limb paralysis and how an animal, ‘If turned on back is unable to right itself.’

The justification given for such terrible and terrifying practices is that ‘use of EEEV as a bioweapon may be by the aerosol route’ i.e. it is possible that if EEEV were to be used as a weapon, it may be as an aerosol.

As if these experiments alone are not chilling enough, the researchers allude to the possibility of their work continuing using monkeys. They describe work in rodents as: ‘a good foundation on which to build a body of evidence for progressive studies in non-human primates’. There is a breeding colony of marmosets at Porton Down, so Animal Aid is gravely concerned that there is a risk that these may be the next animals exposed to EEEV.

Previous experiments conducted at Dstl 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,

‘Those who defend the terrible animal suffering at Porton Down repeatedly state that the establishment does less than 0.5% of the national total of animal experiments, but this is completely irrelevant. An individual animal only cares about the terrible suffering he or she is enduring, not the number of animals being used alongside them. As this new information shows, the degree of suffering at Dstl is absolutely atrocious. Only a complete ban on warfare experiments on animals will rectify this reprehensible position.  

‘Animal Aid is calling on those who are opposed to warfare experiments on animals to contact their MP to voice their opposition. Leaflets and postcards for distribution and awareness-raising are available, free of charge, from the Animal Aid office.’

Order your leaflets and postcards now

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