A leading animal advocacy group is campaigning to being an end to what it describes as 'heinous' warfare experiments involving animals.
Kent-based Animal Aid says ' all animal experiments are cruel and unreliable' but warfare tests are particularly heinous because they involve 'intentionally exposing animals to compounds, weapons or blast injuries which are known to cause terrible suffering and death in humans'.
The group wants to raise public awareness of these experiments as well as ultimately bring them to an end.
According to Animal Aid, Porton Down, near Salisbury, is the UK site most commonly associated with warfare experiments, including those on animals - with thousands of animals being used each year, including monkeys, mice, and pigs. The latest figures - for 2017 - shows that 3,865 animals of various species were experimented upon at Porton Down.
The organization cites experiments carried out on guinea pigs which inflicted 'terrible suffering' on the animals. "The guinea pigs had a nerve agent called VX applied to their backs in order to see how a chemical – known as a bioscavenger – would alter the effects of VX," says Animal Aid.
"VX has been described as causing blurred vision, drooling, excessive sweating, eye pain, nausea and vomiting in humans at low doses. A large dose can cause fits, a loss of consciousness, paralysis and a failure to breathe, potentially leading to death."
'Not the same as humans'
The guinea pigs were observed continuously for 8 hours and then at intervals for up to 2 days, and scored on their condition, with worse conditions being allocated higher scores, and symptoms including; 'no meaningful voluntary movement', 'gasping', 'continuous tremor', 'production of tears', and 'writhing'.
The value of testing these compounds on guinea pigs - in terms of how the information can be applied to humans - was cast in doubt by a 2007 research paper which concluded 'guinea pig may not be a suitable animal model for the evaluation of nerve agent antidotes'.
It added that some potentially useful compounds to protect against nerve agents 'that are suitable for humans may be dismissed based upon their poor efficacy in guinea pigs'*.
'Animals suffer and die'
"Animals suffer and die in so many different types of animal experiments, but there is something especially dark and troubling about warfare experiments," Jessamy Korotoga, Campaign Manager at Animal Aid, said in a statement sent to Plant Based News.
"To deliberately expose live animals to compounds, simulated blasts and biological pathogens which are known, and indeed developed, to cause extreme suffering and death, is morally unconscionable.
"A civilized society, in the 21st century, should not be involved in such macabre and terrible practices."
* Luo, C. et al (2007) ‘An in vitro comparative study on the reactivation of nerve agent-inhibited guinea pig and human acetylcholinesterases by oximes’, Biochemistry, vol.46, pp.11771 - 11779