In one piece of arcane military research, goats are being subjected to painful rapid decompression to test submarine crews' escape procedures. A highly sensitive official report, obtained by The Independent, reveals more than 11,000 animals were used in experiments at Porton Down, the MoD's research centre in Wiltshire in 1996, the last year for which figures are available. This represents a 27 per cent increase on the previous year and double the number used in 1992, according to the second report of the Government-appointed Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
The document, which was placed in the House of Commons Library last week, indicates that pigs and sheep were subjected to a range of serious and often fatal injuries. In one experiment code-named "Operation Danish bacon", the pigs were shot by Danish soldiers to test surgical techniques.
The report says some trials on pigs and sheep involved inflicting the kind of "traumatic injuries expected in modern warfare". A minority of the experiments were conducted on animals that had not been anaesthetised.
The report outlines how 46 adult goats were used in 124 submarine escape and rescue experiments. The "dives" were made at Alverstoke, near Gosport, using a hyperbaric chamber. Two goats were normally subjected to pressure and depressurised to test treatment for the "bends". Research scientists said the physiognomy of the animals is similar to humans where compression and decompression is concerned.
A spokesman for the charity Animal Aid said: "Because of obsessional government secrecy we can reveal only a few fragments of the horror story that is Porton Down."
But a spokesman for the centres said animals were humanely destroyed, if they were in "significant distress", under laws policed by the Home Office.Reuse content