Porton Down: Animal Experiments

Ministry of Defence written question – answered on 23rd April 2020.

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Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps he is taking to reduce the severity of experiments conducted on live animals at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, how many live animal procedures conducted at Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down were classified as severe in 2018.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of removing the female marmosets from litters in the breeding programme for that animal at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, and re-homing them to animal sanctuaries.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, if he will end all severe experiments on live animals at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down by 2022.

Photo of Kenny MacAskill Kenny MacAskill Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice Team Member)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether any projects involving the use of live animals in scientific procedures at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Porton Down, received grants from foreign governments in the latest period for which figures are available.

Photo of Jeremy Quin Jeremy Quin The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) is committed to reducing the number of animal experiments and is proactive in developing alternatives. The “three Rs” of ‘reduce’ (the number of animals used), ‘refine’ (animal procedures) and ‘replace’ (animal experiments with non-animal alternatives) are integral to its research programme.

Dstl currently uses non-animal physical models, computer models and in-vitro methods. For example, computer models are being used to model pressure waves in the head from the impact of blunt projectiles. Dstl scientists have developed invertebrate animal models using wax moth larvae that are used to screen novel antibiotics, and a replacement for animals in the form of a mechanical rig that represents the human chest and is used to assess protective equipment worn by the military.

For the period 2018, a total of 586 regulated procedures were classified as severe based on the actual severity experienced by the animals.

The welfare of marmosets in the Dstl breeding programme is under constant review by veterinary staff, independent inspectors and the Dstl Animal Welfare Ethical Review Body.

While adult marmosets can live for a period of time in compatible same-sex social groups, the normal long term social group for mature adult marmosets is a male-female pairing. Removing female marmosets and rehoming them is not, therefore, a suitable strategy for the breeding programme, for the scientific research programme, or in the interests of optimal animal welfare.

Dstl is committed to refining regulated procedures to reduce the overall number of severe procedures in animals. A procedure is retrospectively classed as “severe” if animals experience severe illness or die. As Dstl uses animals in experiments to develop new vaccines, therapies and treatments to protect against severe illness and death in humans, some severe procedures are still required. This is part of ensuring that the procedures provide a valid model of the human disease.

No projects involving the use of live animals in scientific procedures at Dstl received grants during the latest period (2019). Where Dstl works with foreign governments, this is on a contract not grant basis, ensuring that the specifics of the work to be done are clearly stated, along with the associated legal obligations on both parties.

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