MOD REQ 10

Experiments involving avian and marine species

 BACKGROUND

We wondered what  experiments had been carried out by the MOD at its Porton Down facility/private research laboratories. Given that a number of experiments were carried out in respect of the Eagle River Flats which determined that white phosphorus was responsible for poisoning migrating birds, we wondered if any replication had taken place in the UK following the US research.

We were also curious about “protected species” on the Wildlife and Countryside Act being used in possible MOD experiments, and what protocol existed for this potential breach of law.

WHAT DID WE ASK AND WHAT DID THEY KNOW?

We asked the following questions which received the following Response from DSTL.

(i)Can the ministry provide information of how many and which species of birds/ marine life have been used in experiments by the ministry or their agencies/private research laboratories in the last ten years?
If any birds/marine species were used what was the purpose of using these specific species and what were the aim of the experiments.
(ii)In terms of using “protected species” for experimentation (should it wish to do so), does the Ministry have to apply to Defra for taking wild animals/birds from the wild and are these requests for licences subsequently published by Defra or redacted on public
request for information for “national security” reasons?
(iii)Have the ministry in the last ten years taken any eggs of wild birds for use in experiments, or has it applied for licenses to Defra to do so? Please if yes provide details of which species and the reasons for undertaking what would be regarded as a criminal
act by anyone else.

“The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on behalf of the Ministry of Defence has not undertaken any experimental work on marine animal species in the past ten years. In the same time period, three chickens were the subject of experimental procedures in 2008. These were subject to a vaccination programme in order to generate antibody production. Antibodies were subsequently collected from their eggs and used as detection reagents for a range of viral, bacterial and toxin agents.

The use of chicken eggs results in a reduction in the number of animals that would otherwise be required to produce antibodies and also represents a refinement (National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research) since it removes the need for regular blood sampling from chickens.

If the Ministry of Defence wished to undertake experimental work on protected wild bird species it would indeed need to obtain approval from DEFRA to obtain these under licence. However, the Ministry of Defence has not undertaken any such work and, therefore, has not needed to seek approval for this activity. In the last ten years the Ministry of Defence has not taken any eggs of wild birds for use in experiments nor has it sought approval from DEFRA to do so.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

We are glad that no wild birds have been used for experiments. Too many animals were used in the pursuit of chemical warfare trials post WW2  in the UK by the likes of the MOD for little purpose other than confirming “the science of the bloody obvious”- that organo phosphates are bad news-period. They were not thinking, just blindly reacting to a threat which they themselves had conceived from out of the hands of Nazi science.

Interestingly other FOI requests have been asked via the what do they know? website  concerning animal experimentation at Porton Down-  FOI request 1  , FOI request 2.  Some of these experiments have been organo phosphorus related.