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

Analysis

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
    -2

    Comment number 183.

    181... It`s wrong to cause suffering to other animals just to relieve your own suffering.... Downright selfishness.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 182.

    #179. Yeah... NEW chemicals would undergo toxicity tests by the manufacturer. Household chemicals are a cocktail of ancient stuff (like bleach) which has no requirement to be tested again. There is little truly new out there.

    #178 apart from being unable to spell parasite #169 is bang on. If pet shop mice costing £4 each were suitable they would be used rather than £300 parasite free GM mice.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 181.

    170.. a dog saving another dog has nothing to do with my comment. What I was saying is animals fight to survive. They kill other species to protect their own. I love animals, and if there was another (effective) way to test then I'd be all for it.

  • Comment number 180.

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

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 179.

    #174 Peter_Sym
    "JESUS CHRIST!!! Household cleaning products aren't tested on animals either. What do you think would happen if you bleach a mouse?"

    Actually household products like cleaners are or once were tested on animals. One of the reasons is contamination of people using those products. Its vital to know if a new chemical might cause cancers or birth defects in anyone exposed to it...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 178.

    person replying to166 . Learn to spell . Your facts are equally doubtful .

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 177.

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

    So there is an increase in testing but where is the "broken promises"? Where are the figures to show the type of scientific research increases. The testing may have increased in other areas outside "household products".
    POORLY produced article!
    Give us figures!

  • Comment number 176.

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

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 175.

    @MTaylor reminds me of a Creationist, trotting out his memes which no one can be bothered to mythbust anymore. "If we evolved from apes, why are there still monkeys?!" There isn't a "scientific case" against animal experimentation, not least because the whole of science is proving things to be true. If it's not true as far as can be determined, it's not science.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 174.

    171. luptonSuan
    house hold products are mainly damaging to the environment and are unecessary as ecological alternatives are freely available . These are not tested on animals
    --
    JESUS CHRIST!!! Household cleaning products aren't tested on animals either. What do you think would happen if you bleach a mouse?

    BTW I used head & shoulders on my cat on Sat. Cleared up her dandruff. Cat is fine.

  • Comment number 173.

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

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 172.

    End of the day there are 4 choices. (For medicinal testing etc, not vanity products)

    1) Animal testing

    2) Putting completely untested drugs on the market

    3) Human testing (if criminals can't get life sentences, you think this will happen?)

    4) Give up on a lot of scientific advancement in medical science

    May not like it but I know which one sounds the lesser evil.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 171.

    house hold products are mainly damaging to the environment and are unecessary as ecological alternatives are freely available . These are not tested on animals . If people used them it would make testing outmoded .
    Bad living habits cause most ill health . People are spoilt and pay little attention to what they buy to eat . Look at super market trolleys at check out if in doubt !

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 170.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 169.

    166.luptonSuan
    "People who think animal testing is essential could donate their own pets for the good cause"

    No they couldn't. For most tests the animals need to be bread in sterial environments to keep that free of paracites that could affect the results. Also as stated in the article >50% are now on GM animals.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 168.

    Just thinking about my own work. One area I am working on will eventually almost certainly need animal experimentation. In this case simulation or non direct testing simply wont work.
    The aim of the first round will be focusing on breaking the normal development cycle to create massively deformed foetuses. I can't imagine many people tolerating that being done on humans.

  • Comment number 167.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 166.

    People who think animal testing is essential could donate their own pets for the good cause

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 165.

    It's important to point out that drugs cannot be initially tested on humans, that is what clincal trials are for. We DO test on humans, just not at the early stages as this is both uneffective (as a random human is unlikely to have the exact characteristics for the testing) and also dangerous. At the end of the day, we all put ourselves before animals. They would do the same! It's nature.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 164.

    Proverb 12:10, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.”

 

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