Bends Experiments

An example of the use of animals in military research.

Divers who surface too quickly from deep water risk dying in agony from the 'bends', or decompression illness, when bubbles of gas collect in their blood.

Dozens of goats were put in a pressure chamber in the late 1990's to simulate being deep underwater to study the risk of sailors getting the bends when escaping from stricken submarines. Dozens of goats died. The experiments were carried out in Britain by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) at the Royal Naval Physiological Laboratory (now part of the Centre for Human Sciences Sector of DERA) and with the US Navy. (House of Commons Written Answers, 24 March, 14 April and 23 April 1999.)

Goats are used because their physiology in these circumstances is like human physiology. Similar experiments have been carried out on sheep and pigs.