porton down
© AFP 2019 / Niklas Halle'nScientists have blown up pigs, infected monkeys with biological weapons and poisoned guinea pigs with nerve gas
Almost 50,000 animals have been killed in military testing at a top-secret government research base, the Sunday Mirror can reveal.

During a series of experiments, scientists blew up pigs, infected monkeys with biological weapons and poisoned guinea pigs with nerve gas.

Figures seen by this newspaper show 48,400 animals were killed at the Defence Science and Technology ­Laboratory at Porton Down, Wiltshire, between 2010 and 2017.

Animal rights activists claim the tests are unnecessary and the numbers being killed are "alarming".

Porton Down
© AFP/Getty ImagesThe Porton Down research centre near Salisbury
Jessamy Korotoga, of Animal Aid, said: "Animals suffer and die in so many different types of ­experiments, but there is something especially dark and ­troubling about warfare experiments.

"To deliberately expose live animals to compounds, simulated blasts and biological pathogens which are known, and indeed developed, to cause extreme suffering and death is morally unconscionable.

"A civilised society, in the 21st century, should not be involved in such macabre and terrible practices."

Our investigation found scientists shot, blew up, gassed and poisoned animals as part of the Ministry of Defence's weapons research programme.

In one experiment, guinea pigs had a nerve agent called VX applied to their backs to see how another chemical, known as bioscavenger, would alter the effects.

The rodents were observed after being poisoned and given a score for their symptoms, which included "gasping" and "writhing".

Animals not already dead at the end of the test were killed and dissected.

The Army has also taken part in "live tissue" experiments in Denmark involving pigs.

The beasts were shot in different parts of the body with rifles.

Army medics then fought to keep them alive.

The MoD defends the practice, claiming it provides doctors with vital training which has helped save the lives of British troops injured in battle.

Pigs were also killed in explosive tests at Porton Down as part of a research programme to develop more effective body armour for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The animals were wrapped in body armour material before being seriously injured or killed by explosives. Scientists then studied the animals to assess which parts had been damaged or protected.

In further tests monkeys were injected with "biological weapons" like anthrax, while researchers recorded their pain levels and how long they took to die.

Others were forced to breathe mustard gas, which burns the lungs and causes severe blistering.

Porton Down is the same base where scientists confirmed novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March 2018.

Comment: As you'll see below, novichok likely originated in Porton Down, which just so happens to be near Salisbury.

The same nerve agent went on to kill Dawn Sturgess and poison her partner Charlie Rowley after he picked up a bottle discarded by two suspected Russian intelligence agents.

An MoD spokesman said of our findings: "DSTL is responsible for developing and creating indispensable technology to protect the UK and its armed forces.

"This could not, currently, be achieved without the use of animals in research. DSTL is committed to reducing the number of animal experiments."