PEACE PICNIC AT PORTON DOWN

According to the Sunday Express piece on June 18 06, military tests have doubled in Britain in the past five years and more than 100,000 animals have been subjected to painful research at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down since 2000, according to figures from the Ministry of Defence.

It is difficult to get details of exactly what takes place at this secret, highly guarded place, but the Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram did confirm that foreign companies and governments are also involved, helping to fund the research. What is known is that tests include chemically induced burns, inhalation of poison gas, lethal doses of nerve agents and injections of E coli. Animals involved range from mice and pigs to monkeys and were described by the BUAV as cruel and pointless.

The Peace Picnic organised for July 22nd by Jenny Pothecary of Catholic Concern for Animals therefore came at a fortuitous time. It will not be lost on Friends that the data gained from subjecting vulnerable animals to cruel and lethal procedures will be used to improve and enhance our military capability. These practices are therefore doubly deplorable.

I was happy to represent QCA and join others in bearing witness against the making of war and its facilitation by the brutal exploitation of our fellow species.

We were fifteen in all, supported by Green Party members, including my husband, an executive member, and Sue Baumgardt, AR Convenor. For the first time in weeks, it seemed, the dry weather ended and as we arrived at the gates of the establishment, skies darkened and a storm broke, with thunder and lightning and torrential rain. To me, it seemed an apocalyptic setting to an appalling place.

Though the attendant MOD police were very pleasant they know Jenny well, as she often prays there, even if she has to go alone they wouldn’t let us use the shelter just inside the gates, so we had our picnic under umbrellas.

Sue reminded us of numbers and species of animals involved at this place and the procedures used; Khalid, after asking for a few moments silence to pray and think about the creatures suffering and dying, perhaps even as we stood there, gave an Islamic view of vivisection, based on the principle that it is wrong to mutilate animals while they are living. I read the John Woolman piece we all know, finishing with William Penn’s “A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil that good may come of it”

We were very few in number, but there were other events organised for the day, including a last minute Stop the War march in London. However, it does not take many to make a protest and with the terrible events in the Middle East in everyone’s mind, using weapons which will certainly have been developed and tested on animals somewhere in the world, Porton Down was an important and significant place to be.

Incidentally, for those who, like me, have not previously visited, the place is not signposted Porton Down. There is, however, a sign saying Health Protection Agency

Marian Hussenbux.