National Anti-vivisection Society

 

National Antivisection Society

Help prevent animal experiments at new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre!

Posted: 18 April 2018. Updated: 18 April 2018

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The NAVS is urging the UK Government not to subject animals to painful inhalation tests at its new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre at Porton Down. Thousands of animals suffer each year during experiments conducted by the Ministry of Defence (MOD); the NAVS is calling for the new, publicly funded facility to use advanced, human-relevant methods instead.

Please join us by writing to your MP today – template letter at the bottom of this page.

The stats.

Latest figures (for 2016) show that a total of 2,745 animals were used in MOD experiments, including 116 monkeys, 2,167 mice, 199 rats, 236 guinea pigs and 27 pigs.

Examples of animal experiments conducted by MOD:

Mustard gas was pumped down the throats of 16 anaesthetised pigs and into their lungs. Three animals died before the end of the experiment, two from suffocation after the tube in their throat became obstructed with mucus and tissues. The remaining animals, still under anaesthetic, were killed 12 hours after exposure, their lungs and heart removed. In contrast, the effects of mustard gas has been tested using human lung cells, the model for which can be used to further understand the development of disease caused by exposure to the gas.

Exposed to various strains of the bacteria Melioidosis, which causes respiratory disease, forty marmoset monkeys were anaesthetised and surgically implanted with a thermometer device. Observed for up to three days, the monkeys suffered fever, with some exhibiting severe, extensive disease in the liver, lungs and spleen. At set time points, else when fatal signs of disease, showed, the monkeys were killed and their organs removed for study. Melioidosis has been studied in human volunteers and patients to test the effectiveness of potential vaccines and antibiotic treatments. Unlike humans, the rapid rate of infection prevents marmosets from producing sufficient white blood cells to fight disease; despite this they have been used for a number of years to study the bacteria.

Marmosets have also been forced to inhale the pathogen tularaemia while in a head-only exposure chamber. Inducing the disease and death, some were given an oral drug to assess its effects in combating the disease. Two of the untreated monkeys died on days 4 and 5, with the remaining monkeys were killed at the end of the study, 24 days after exposure. Causing fever and other symptoms, tularaemia is contracted by humans through tick bites and handling infected animals. No animal model has been identified that can respond to infections of tularaemia in the way humans do; researchers have stated that “optimal” models for this and other emerging infections may not exist.

Twenty four macaque monkeys were exposed to the Monkey pox virus after being split into groups and given one of four treatments. As they succumbed to the disease, the animals received various vaccine doses and underwent tests including lung imaging and blood withdrawals. The macaques suffered weight loss, depression, shortness of breath and nasal discharge; two remained inactive from the sixth day, one died the following day, the other was killed two days later. Despite variation in how the viruses react in different species, Monkeypox is used as a model for the related human smallpox virus. Demonstrating the needless use of animals for this and similar studies, a smallpox vaccine had already shown to be “safe and well tolerated in more than 2,400 people including more than 900 immune compromised people”.

Mice were forced to inhale the Western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV) for 10 minutes while physically restrained in tubes. A number of the animals died as a result, while others were killed over a period of two weeks due to the severity of their symptoms. These included shallow breathing, seizures, tremors and an inability to move, even to reach their food. As the virus reached their brain they also displayed spinning, obsessive grooming and twitching behaviours. WEEV is a relatively uncommon disease in humans, contracted through mosquito bites or proximity to infected horses. While exposure through inhalation in mice caused acute disease and led to death in 100% of animals, in humans natural exposure causes 3-4% mortality, and in one aerosol exposure case 40% mortality.

As these examples show, the use of animals to model human exposure to harmful agents cannot reliably predict results in humans, due to biological differences. Advanced and human-relevant models of respiratory infection are however available, including the human lung-on-a-chip model, which reproduces the “structural, functional, and mechanical” properties of the human lung and has been used to model respiratory infections including tuberculosis.

Take action now!

  • Call on your MP to urge the UK Government not to subject animals to painful inhalation tests at its new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre at Porton Down. Template letter below.

  • World Day for Laboratory Animals takes place on April 24th - see how you can get involved here.


Template letter

Dear

As a concerned constituent, I call on you to urge the UK Government not to subject animals to painful inhalation tests at its new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre at Porton Down. For the sake of animals and humans, this publicly funded facility must use advanced, human-relevant methods instead.

Thousands of animals are already suffering during experiments conducted by the Ministry of Defence. In 2016 a total of 2,745 animals were used, including 116 monkeys, 2,167 mice, 199 rats, 236 guinea pigs and 27 pigs.

Some experiments involved marmoset monkeys being forced to inhale meliodosis, a bacteria which has been studied in human volunteers and patients to test the effectiveness of potential vaccines and antibiotic treatments. During the experiments, some monkeys exhibited severe, extensive disease in the liver, lungs and spleen, with individuals killed when they showed fatal signs of disease. Unlike humans, the rapid rate of infection prevents marmosets from producing sufficient white blood cells to fight disease; despite this they have been used for a number of years.

Monkeypox has also been tested as a model for the related human smallpox virus, despite variation in how the viruses react in different species. Macaque monkeys have been exposed to the virus, their symptoms including weight loss, depression, shortness of breath and nasal discharge. Two animals were inactive after six days; one died the following day, the other was killed two days later.

Mice have been forced to inhale Western equine encephalitis virus while physically restrained in tubes. A number of the animals died as a result and symptoms included seizures and an inability to move, even to reach their food. While exposure to the virus caused acute disease and led to death in 100% of animals, in humans natural exposure causes 3-4% mortality, and in one aerosol exposure case 40% mortality.

The use of animals in chemical weapons tests is wrong, ethically and scientifically. Unlike advanced alternatives, the results cannot provide reliable predictions of how humans will react to harmful substances, hindering medical progress and costing animals’ lives.

In light of the evidence, I hope you will press for these tests to end and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Yours sincerely

© National Anti-Vivisection Society

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