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Military Research

Volume 451: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many tests have been carried out on primates in military research in each of the last five years; and what the scientific basis is of the tests. (94698)

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down undertakes research involving non-human primates as part of the overall research programme to provide the UK and its armed forces with safe and effective countermeasures in the event of chemical or biological agents being used against them.

Dstl Porton Down submits annual returns to the Home Office detailing the number of procedures undertaken which involve the use of animals as defined in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. In the years 2001 to 2005 the annual returns to the Home Office for non-human primates are detailed in the following table.

Number of procedures on non-human primates

2001

68

2002

42

2003

23

2004

30

2005

54

The use of animals is only a very small aspect of the overall military research programme. The role of Dstl protecting the UK and its armed forces requires it to answer questions and develop solutions to problems that cannot currently be addressed without the use of animals in research. The use of animals is only undertaken if there is no suitable non-animal system which can be used.

Dstl continually seeks alternatives to working with animals and specifically addresses ways in which animal use can be reduced and refined.

Dstl pays particular attention to the relative strengths and weaknesses of different animal models. Species selection is a critical feature in optimising the confidence with which animal-derived data can be extrapolated to man. Non-human primates are reserved for pivotal bridging studies designed to answer questions primarily concerned with nervous system function, behaviour and aspects of immunology.

Over the last five years non-human primates (marmosets or rhesus monkeys) have been involved in research:

(i) to refine nerve agent pre-treatments and therapies,

(ii) to assess vaccines and therapies against anthrax,

(iii) to develop an effective animal model for hookworm infection with a view to utilisation in vaccine studies,

(iv) to evaluate the hazard to man of new, emerging threat agents,

(v) to investigate the possible interactions of multiple vaccinations.

Wherever possible, the results of this research has, or will be, published in the open technical literature.