A SHARP rise in tests on animals at Porton Down has sparked an angry response from animal rights campaigners.

Scientists at the government facility used 116 monkeys for experiments last year– compared with 45 in the previous 12 months.

Experts insist it is vital monkeys – because of their similarities to human beings – are used to try to eradicate diseases like tuberculosis and Ebola.

But activists said using monkeys was “unnecessary and cruel”.

A Freedom of Information request to the MoD showed a “huge” increase in the number of animals used in experiments at the lab.

Last year, 2,745 animals – including macaque monkeys, pigs, marmosets, rabbits and guinea pigs – were housed there.

Claire Palmer, of the Animal Justice Project, said: “Shockingly the number of monkeys has almost tripled in a year from 45. Further investigation on the types of primate experiments is a catalogue of cruel, repetitive experiments for infectious diseases.

“Our research reveals Porton Down have been carrying out TB studies spanning almost a decade. Much current research focuses on attempts to improve available treatments by injecting animals with TB-causing bacteria or forcing them to inhale it – yet we do not appear any closer to eliminating the disease in humans.

“We are still using the same vaccine that we had in the 1920s, and the same drugs that we had in the 1970s.”

She added: “The monkeys suffered depression, withdrawn behaviour and abnormal respiration – and up to 20 per cent loss in body weight.”

Dr Andre Menache, of the Project, added: “Porton Down researchers have a blank cheque to conduct pointless, dead-end animal experiments.

“After years of infecting macaque monkeys and no success in finding an effective vaccine against Aids, the same researchers have simply switched to studying TB in monkeys.

“Any intelligent scientist knows the immune system of monkeys cannot predict what happens in people.

“It’s time these dead-end experiments were stopped.”

The MoD said it was working to reduce the requirement for animal experimentation, but some life-saving research could not be conducted without using animals.