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MoD goat-bothering boffinry to cease

Submariner-simulating caprines' work is done

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The UK Ministry of Defence is to cease experiments involving goats in compression chambers, it has announced. The British forces now believe they have all the data they need regarding the likely effects of different decompression regimes, making further testing unnecessary.

For the past 11 months, UK animal decompression experimentation has been on hold while a review panel examined the need for further research.

"The review has concluded that the remaining associated areas of uncertainty in submarine escape and rescue relate to events that are considered highly unlikely and do not therefore need to be addressed by means of animal testing," said Defence Secretary Des Browne yesterday.

"The MoD has endorsed these recommendations and as a result, it has no immediate need to continue animal testing of this type."

Live animal testing was carried out at government underwater research facilities in Alverstoke, near Portsmouth. Experiments were aimed at predicting the effects of different compression and decompression profiles on divers - or on submariners, in the case of pressure-hull breaches or escape ascents from a stricken sub.

Goats were the main animals used, due to the similarities between them and submariners* between caprine and human respiratory physiology.

Submarine incidents involving hull breaches or escapes are nowadays rare, and very few naval missions involve a need for divers to undergo extreme pressure profiles. The Royal Navy nowadays maintains no such capability, using remotely operated vehicles or submarines for operations deeper than 80m. Nonetheless, there is almost certainly further work which could usefully be done regarding compression-chamber therapeutics.

The decision was welcomed by animal-rights campaigners. BBC coverage of yesterday's announcement here; Reg background here. ®

*Traditionally considered a differently-enabled community with regard to hygiene, by other branches of the service.

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