Tens of Thousands of Animals Killed in Defense-related Medical Experiments

Hundreds of thousands of animals are killed or injured in defense-related experiments, according to data the Defense Ministry has given to the Israel Society for the Abolition of Vivisection (ISAV).

Data on experiments described as "classified" indicate that they used tens of thousands of mice, thousands of rodents, dozens of monkeys and hundreds of pigs.

The Defense Ministry said the defense-related experiments using animals will continue as long as there are no alternatives.

The institutions leading in animal-testing experiments on behalf of the defense establishment are the Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona, the Soreq Nuclear Research Center, the Israel Navy's Marine Medical Center and the Israel Defense Forces Medical Corps.

"This list includes nearly all the institutions carrying out such experiments," the Defense Minis try wrote to attorney Sagy Agmon, representing ISAV.

The correspondence between the Defense Ministry and Agmon lasted many months and in the end the ministry's office on freedom of information agreed to release partial information, most of which remains classified.

ISAV has fought against these experiments for years on the basis of partial information and estimates of their scope and nature. In most cases its information came from soldiers who took part in the experiments and were shocked by them.

The activists, who have struggled against the phenomenon for years, consider the trickle of information that has been released as a major inroads into an area that had been kept hermetically sealed by the defense establishment.

Mice are the most commonly used animal in IDF-related experiments, nearly 14,500 in 2004. Some were used by a public institution related to the defense establishment for the production of radioactive material for various bodies.

According to the Defense Ministry, the tests using the poisonous material was authorized by a committee on animal testing, headed by Dr. Daniel Elad. The committee also includes attorney Benny Cohen; a representative of the public, David Segal; and MK Aryeh Eldad, who is a physician.

From the Defense Ministry's data, during 2004, 267 pigs were used in tests, in some cases to test the effects of explosions.

For the activists these types of tests are considered to be exceptionally cruel. The pigs are placed in a pen and then explosives are detonated. The tests are meant to show how best to develop protection against bombs and missiles.

"Why is it not possible to use sensors that will provide the necessary indications," one of the members of the executive committee of the association asks. "Why do these tests have to be carried out on pigs?"

Brigadier Hezi Levy, head of the Medical Corps and a surgeon by training offers the answer: "Through these experiments we can learn about internal injuries caused by shock waves. For six years we are confronted with injuries caused by blast and shrapnel, and problems with internal bleeding that are difficult to stop. Why pigs? Because their weight, size and abdominal structure offer the closes resemblance to a human being," he told Haaretz yesterday.

However, ISAV reject these assertions, arguing that the physiology of animals differs from that of humans. For example, they reject the need for medical cadets, as part of their advanced training, to experiment on dogs.

The activists protest that the dogs, which are healthy when the procedures are initiated, are used and then thrown into dumpsters while they are still alive.

At the defense establishment there is awareness of the public debate over the issue but say that the tests on dogs will continue because there is no other choice.