Outbreak Imminent – The story of the ‘Pirbright’ animal research facility in Woking, Surrey

In 2007 there was an outbreak of foot and mouth disease that wreaked havoc on British farming, this outbreak was from the Pirbright Institute.

In 2012 the institute was fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for failing to uphold control measures and so risking another outbreak.

Now, in 2017, there is a £48 million animal research facility being planned for Pirbright, which will focus on foot and mouth disease, African swine fever, bird flu and bluetongue.

This is a scenario best kept on the big screen.

The institute’s aim is to tackle viral diseases that have an impact on animal health and food production.

Of the four viruses stated on the institute’s website, three are contagious. Bluetongue is spread by insect bite and the other three are spread by bodily excretions. This sounds disgusting and it is. Animals must be that crammed in together that they are exposed to each other’s bodily excretions.

Pirbright state that they follow the code of practice for the housing and care of animals used in scientific procedures. Animal Justice Project has taken the following measurements from that code:

Farmed animals have floor space assigned to them based upon their size, for example 200-400 kg cow is given 3.8 m2 if in group housing – given that a cow of this weight can be up to 3 meters nose to tail they would just about be able to turn around in this designated space if the cows synchronised their movements.

It doesn’t get much better for sheep or goats (35kg+ = 1.9 m2) or pigs (150kg+ = 3.75 m2) or chickens (2.4kg+ = 1.9m2).

In addition to this, section 8.4.2 of the code (specific circumstances within animal agricultural research) provides a situation in which animals are allowed to be kept in the same conditions as they are in commercial farming, and the scientists must then only follow Council Directive standards.

The code has loop holes throughout as it does not outline what is deemed as ‘ethical treatment’. We question why they are not exploring animal agriculture and its contribution in the spread of these viruses, instead of spending decades trying to create a pill that will allow the greed within the industry to continue unchallenged.

As a part of the Pirbright planning application, the company is aiming to gain a new “public face”, providing a less intimidating entrance and a site split allowing for public access. Like that makes what they are doing any less gross, putting glitter on a turd doesn’t make it any less a turd. We are not buying it.