The scale of animal use at Porton Down

Porton Down’s own data shows the extent of the experiments conducted there. The experiments involve thousands of animals, of many different species, each year. Species vary from monkeys to mice.

Animal20102011201220132014201520162017
Primate68193675711673
Pig88108100582726
Guinea pig652447323116236126
Rat3768223124199240
Mouse880156413411289421673400
Rabbit764
Total95829798883064614124324927453865

The figures above are obtained from different sources, so some details are not available.

Porton Down’s website describes how they carry out ‘research to ensure that the UK’s military and wider public benefit from the latest technical and scientific developments’. Porton Down is the home of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), which is the address listed in most of the scientific papers describing animal experiments at Porton Down.

According to their website, the UK’s chemical and biological weapons programme closed in the 1950s and since then, Porton Down has ‘been active in developing effective countermeasures to the constantly evolving threat posed by chemical and biological weapons. To help develop effective medical countermeasures and to test systems, we produce very small quantities of chemical and biological agents.’

Chemical weapons – how they work and when and where they were used
NameMode of actionWhen usedWhere
SarinNerve agentMarch 1988Iran-Iraq war, used in Halabja, killing 5,000, and on the Japanese subway, by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, killing 13 and injuring thousands (March ’95)
VXNerve agent1994Osaka, by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, to kill a former cult member.