Sharp rise of 8% in UK animal experiments

Mutant mice There was an increase in mutant mice used

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The number of animal experiments carried out in the UK rose by 8% in 2012, according to Home Office figures.

The rise is due to a growth in the use of genetically modified (GM) animals.

According to the way the Home Office classifies statistics, procedures on GM animals were higher than the number on non-GM animals for the first time.

Campaigners criticised what they said was the government's failure to deliver on a post-election pledge to cut the number of procedures.

About 4.11 million scientific experiments on animals took place in 2012, an increase of 317,200 on the previous year.

The number of GM animals increased by 22%; this year saw 1.91 million genetically modified animals used compared to 1.68 million non-GM animals.

Mutant mice


Since the coalition's commitment to reduce the use of animals, the number used in research and the number of experiments has steadily continued to rise and there is no reason to believe that that trend won't continue.

I asked the head of animals in the Home Office's science regulation unit, Dr Judy MacArthur Clark, whether her department would ever be able to deliver on the coalition government's commitment to "reduce the use of animals in scientific research".

She replied: "We are reducing the use of animals in many areas and we are working on a delivery plan that will tease out what is meant by the phraseology of the commitment".

So that would be a "no". Her answer also suggests that Dr MacArthur Clark's delivery plan might backtrack from the commitment to reduce the use of animals in absolute terms and replace it with a promise to try really hard to reduce the use of animals wherever possible, which has been the policy of successive governments since 1998.

Dr MacArthur Clark also said that the Home Office believed that a "significant number" of genetically modified animals suffer mildly or hardly at all. Her unit has commissioned research to establish whether this is true. If so it would go some way to helping the department's cause because if the GM animals are removed from the figures, they would show a 2% drop in the use of animals rather than an 8% increase.

Mice were the most frequent animals used, accounting for about three-quarters, or 1.98 million procedures.

After mice, rats and fish were the most common species used. There was also a 22% increase in the use of non-human primates such as Old World Monkeys, a group which includes macaques and baboons.

The number of procedures involving animals with harmful genetic mutations rose by 13%, with mutant mice accounting for the majority.

The government report said: "The overall level of scientific procedures is determined by a number of factors, including the economic climate and global trends in scientific endeavour.

"In recent years, while many types of research have declined or even ended, the advent of modern scientific techniques has opened up new research areas, with genetically modified animals, mainly mice, often being required to support these areas."

Lord Taylor, minister for criminal information, said that the government "provides a commitment to work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research" which is "an ambitious but achievable goal".

He added: "We recognise that the use of animals in scientific research is a small but essential function in improving our understanding of medical and physiological conditions, the research and development of new medicines and the development of leading edge medical technologies and is necessary to ensure the safety of our environment."

'Broken promise'

In 2010, the coalition government pledged to promote higher standards of animal welfare.

They stated: "We will end the testing of household products on animals and work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research."

Referring to this pledge, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (Buav) said the continued rise in testing amounted to "a broken promise".

Michelle Thew, chief executive of Buav, commented: "The government has failed for a third year on its post-election pledge to work to reduce the number of animal experiments and, as a result, millions of animals continue to suffer and die in our laboratories.

"This lack of progress is completely unacceptable. We need to see meaningful and lasting changes for animals in laboratories."

'Essential part'

Dominic Wells from the Royal Veterinary College said: "We are in an era of developing treatments for rare diseases in a way that we could not have predicted five years ago. We are the victims of our own success and this has inevitably led to the use of more animals."

Dr Ted Bianco, acting director of the Wellcome Trust, said that the scientific community is deeply committed to reducing the numbers of animals used in research, but despite significant progress, "animals remain an essential part of helping us understand disease and develop much-needed new treatments".

"This year's increase reflects the use of powerful techniques to help us model with greater accuracy human disease. In particular, the inclusion of genetically modified mice, whose breeding alone counts as a procedure, is largely behind this increase, but will ultimately allow us to reduce the number of animals used."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I take it those who are against animal testing never visit their Dr or dentist?Never take medication such as insulin,tamoxifen,pills for high blood pressure etc?Never had an operation without anaesthetic?Happy to see millions die from malaria,cholera etc.The list goes on I'd rather a few animals-and they are mainly rats-die than any child.If you had a rat in your home do you make a pet of it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    The reason why this government has done nothing for animal welfare is that there are v few votes in it, unlike gay marriage which will buy them the pink vote (but most of us don't care about) and beating up welfare addicts, which, apparently, we are all in favour of. The Tories only think about the cost to big business and the LibDems are more concerned with spurious human rights. Sorry, Nature!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    There are far too many bleeding heart hippies out there. They're just animals, there for us to use as food, clothing, protection, and any other use we decide is appropriate. You don't like it? Don't use the products.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    This article isn't clear is this increase is due to testing cosmetics, in which case, yes very very wrong. If it's for essential drug development to treat or find cures to people in suffering, then it is a price that has to paid - as any new drug can not go straight from the lab onto human trials.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    What selfless little animals they are to help humans fight disease and allergies. Don't think humans would do the same for them or each other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Unfortunately animals need to be used for medical research I can accept that, however i do not accept or believe it is required for stupid luxury stuff like cosmetics etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Its either human rights or animal rights. I don't think the two can coexist unfortunately. People moan about animal testing but will quite happily lay down mouse traps when they get a mouse or rat poison which often isn't an instant death may as well make it mean something.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Is this actually surprising, this is just a small part of a long list of failures from this government who have almost kept none of their promises but then again with the likes of Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith, Gove, May and Hague, this should have been expected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Anyone who uses any painkillers or cares about anyone who has survived or is being treated for cancer is fine with animal testing.

    That would be everyone, then.

    Make-up, cigarettes - no - I have to pay for these things, why should rabbits get them free?

    But medical - that's fine. Oh, and using criminals is a rubbish idea - what if you find out later that they're innocent?

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    #6 Its spelt 'paedophile'

    A peadophile sounds like someone with a fetish for small green vegetables.

    You might want to check out the Nuremberg protocols too. Courtesy of Hitler banning animal testing in favour of using prisoners this sort of behaviour is usually considered a major war crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Awful how folk undervalue human life here ... sad as it is, miscarriages of justice do happen.

    Also,for the most part you couldn't do the experiments that are done
    on any old human anyway, as many of them these days are done on
    animals specifically genetically modified for specific conditions.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    @gill all medicines ARE tested on humans - the animal stage is followed by THREE human stages. The animal tests are not misleading - they knock out half of the dangerous compunds before the human trials start. Without it, we'd kill a quarter of the volunteers. who would volunteer for a trial that had a 25% chance of killing you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Most people kill mice in their homes with nasty traps, this is more important. The fact is that the use of animals for genetics, immune and cancer research is irreplaceable; the systems involved don't exist or are too complex to model in bacteria/IPS. A lot involve chemical reactions, which we don't understand yet. If you support a cure for cancer, and human disease research, this is the price.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Use MP's, probably be the only time they could actually say they are working for the benefit of the people they supposedly represent!

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.


  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    60 million guinea pigs (ie humans) are currently undergoing a variety of unpleasant social experiments via the government. Were they included in this survey?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    Tests should be done on lifers like Peadophiles, Rapists, murderers etc.

    Tests on animals for medicine for us humans is wrong! The results are often misleading and meaningless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Disgusting. NO animal testing should be allowed - use criminals who have committed murder, rape and other violent crimes. Who cares if they suffer? I certainly don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    People complain about animal testing yet still wear leather, eat meat and if testing wasn't done on animals I seriously doubt people would step up to the plate to be testers. Maybe should test on the serious criminals ha ha........but that's another can of worms.


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