Topic: Scottish Islands

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Operation Vegetarian

Military history Military history/World War II Scottish Islands

Operation Vegetarian was a British military plan in 1942 to disseminate linseed cakes infected with anthrax spores onto the fields of Germany. These cakes would have been eaten by the cattle, which would then be consumed by the civilian population, causing the deaths of millions of German citizens. Furthermore, it would have wiped out the majority of Germany's cattle, creating a massive food shortage for the rest of the population that remained uninfected. Preparations were not complete until early 1944. Operation Vegetarian was only to be used in the event of a German anthrax attack on the United Kingdom.

The cakes themselves were tested on Gruinard Island, just off the coast of Scotland. Because of the widespread contamination from the anthrax spores, the land remained quarantined until 1990. The five million cakes made to be disseminated in Germany were eventually destroyed in an incinerator shortly after the end of World War II.

In his novel The Impossible Dead (2011), author Ian Rankin mentions the clandestine events surrounding the removal of contaminated soils from Guinard Island by a protest group, the Dark Harvest Commando, and the island's removal from maps by the British Government. The island also features as the principal setting for the 1985 novel El año de gracia, by Cristina Fernández Cubas, in which the protagonist spends a winter shipwrecked on the island.

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