I am taking it on myself to inform you and other animal
rights groups about this horrendous new weapon that, as you will see in
the article, has already been tested on animals. Since the weapon is still
in development, I can only assume that it will be tested on animals again.
It's also important that people know that this crowd-control pain weapon
will be used on demonstrators if we do nothing to stop it.:
02 March 2005
Exclusive from New Scientist Print Edition
By David Hambling
The US military is funding development of a weapon that
delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away.
Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed.
But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has
been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be
used for torture.
"I am deeply concerned about the ethical aspects of this
research," says Andrew Rice, a consultant in pain medicine at Chelsea and
Westminster Hospital in London, UK. "Even if the use of temporary severe
pain can be justified as a restraining measure, which I do not believe it
can, the long-term physical and psychological effects are unknown."
The research came to light in documents unearthed by the
Sunshine Project, an organisation based in Texas and in Hamburg, Germany,
that exposes biological weapons research. The papers were released under
the US's Freedom of Information Act.
One document, a research contract between the Office of
Naval Research and the University of Florida in Gainesville, US, is
entitled "Sensory consequences of electromagnetic pulses emitted by laser
It concerns so-called Pulsed Energy Projectiles (PEPs),
which fire a laser pulse that generates a burst of expanding plasma when
it hits something solid, like a person (New Scientist print edition, 12
October 2002). The weapon, destined for use in 2007, could literally knock
rioters off their feet.
According to a 2003 review of non-lethal weapons by the US Naval Studies
Board, which advises the navy and marine corps, PEPs produced "pain and
temporary paralysis" in tests on animals. This appears to be the result of
an electromagnetic pulse produced by the expanding plasma which triggers
impulses in nerve cells.
The new study, which runs until July and will be carried
out with researchers at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, aims
to optimise this effect. The idea is to work out how to generate a pulse
which triggers pain neurons without damaging tissue.
The contract, heavily censored before release, asks
researchers to look for "optimal pulse parameters to evoke peak nociceptor
activation" - in other words, cause the maximum pain possible. Studies on
cells grown in the lab will identify how much pain can be inflicted on
someone before causing injury or death.
New Scientist contacted two researchers working on the project. Martin
Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central Florida, US,
refused to comment. Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the
University of Florida, distanced himself from the work, saying "I don't
have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background
for the group." His name appears on a public list of the university's
research projects next to the $500,000-plus grant.
John Wood of University College London, UK, an expert in
how the brain perceives pain, says the researchers involved in the project
should face censure. "It could be used for torture," he says, "the
[researchers] must be aware of this."
Amanda Williams, a clinical psychologist at University
College London, fears that victims risk long-term harm. "Persistent pain
can result from a range of supposedly non-destructive stimuli which
nevertheless change the functioning of the nervous system," she says. She
is concerned that studies of cultured cells will fall short of
demonstrating a safe level for a plasma burst. "They cannot tell us about
the pain and psychological consequences of such a painful experience."
Go on to Do Animals Have
Rights, and Does it Matter if They Don't?
Return to 13 March 2005 Issue
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