Defence lab’s animal testing keeps rising

Campaigners have expressed disappointment after it emerged the government's main defence laboratory is steadily increasing its number of experiments on animals.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), whose goal is to create "battle-winning technologies" for the Ministry of Defence, has registered a 17% increase in experiments on pigs, rabbits, monkeys and rodents over the last two years.

It conducted  9,882 procedures involving animals in 2011, up from 9,582 in 2010 and 8,452 in 2009.

"Whilst we recognise the need to ensure the safety of the armed forces and civilians in conflict, it is very disappointing to see the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory report a rise in the number of animals it is using in scientific procedures year on year since 2009," Kailah Eglington, Chief Executive of the Dr Hadwen Trust, told

"The updating of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 was an important step forward in helping to replace the use of animals in medical research and in enshrining the 3Rs principles of reduction, refinement and replacement of animal experimentation in law but it is clear that much work remains to be done."

DSTL claims the number of its experiments on animals is lower than would otherwise be required because of 'burden-sharing' with other countries.

Defence minister Philip Dunne stated: "As part of the licensing process, the researchers have to convince the Home Office that the work is required, that the results cannot be obtained without the use of animals and that every step has been taken to minimise pain and suffering to the animals involved."

DSTL was established in 2001 and its work has included producing a mouth spray that counters the plague, improvements to global navigation systems and a way of detecting sepsis before symptoms develop. It became the "key focus for science and technology within the Ministry of Defence" in April 2010.

The information came to light following a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock.