LIVE pigs are being blown up with explosives at Porton Down, the government’s secret military research laboratory, to simulate the effect of terrorist attacks on civilian targets.
In a series of tests at the biological and chemical research centre in Wiltshire, 18 large pigs were wrapped in protective blankets before bombs were detonated a few feet away. The scientists allowed the pigs to bleed until almost a third of their blood was gone to see how long they could be kept alive.
MPs and animal welfare groups have questioned the use of live animals in the explosions, even though the pigs were anaesthetised throughout. None survived the experiments.
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, said: “These are revolting and unnecessary experiments. Sadly, we are too familiar with the effects of terrorism. It is perfectly possible to find out things we don’t know without blowing up pigs to find out.”
Research papers, obtained by The Sunday Times, show that the experiments at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory were carried out because “blast injuries are an increasing problem, owing to the widespread terrorist threat”.
The blasts were meant to recreate the effect of an explosion in an enclosed space, such as the July 2005 attacks on the Underground and a double-decker bus in London, and had been designed to help medics control haemorrhaging from victims.
The pigs were wrapped in Kevlar blankets to protect them from minor bomb debris and placed less than three yards from the explosive. Before being blown up, they had tubes inserted into their blood vessels and bladders, and their spleens removed. A major blood vessel in the abdomen had a wire put into it so the vessel was lacerated during the blast.
Porton Down said the research programme would help British soldiers exposed to bombs in Afghanistan as well as potential civilian terror casualties. Up to 94% of critically injured victims of the 2004 Madrid train bombings were identified as suffering from “blast lung”, an injury that leaks over time.
A spokeswoman said that anecdotally there was already evidence that the research was helping to save lives.
“This work is part of our broad combat casualty care programme. Anecdotally, we are seeing evidence of people surviving because of this work,” she said.
Porton Down, originally set up to research chemical warfare during the first world war, uses a special breed of white pig that has skin resembling human flesh.
Scientists at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection questioned the validity of the tests, saying that the effect on an anaesthetised pig of a bomb blast would “differ substantially from those of a conscious human being”.
A spokesman said: “We understand the need to deal with the human tragedy, of which sadly there are too many cases. However, we do not believe that mutilating pigs in these horrific experiments is the answer.”
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