Shocking rise in animal experiments in Scotland

22/07/2011

BUAV condemns 17% increase in the numbers of animals used in research

The BUAV has today criticised a 17% increase in the number of animals used in experiments in Scotland during 2010. The total number of animals used was 579,905, which is 85,321 more than in 2009. The figures have come to light following questions tabled by Mr William Bain, MP for Glasgow North East.

Michelle Thew, BUAV Chief Executive said, “This large increase in the number of animal experiments taking place in Scotland is shocking. This is an issue of strong public concern and people will be alarmed to know that this is the equivalent to beginning 1,588 experiments every day in a Scottish laboratory and that the majority of experiments were carried out without any anaesthesia. Rather than deliberately subjecting even more animals to pain and suffering, the UK Government should fulfill its pledge to reduce animal experiments.”

During 2010, there were 323,740 mice, 36,890 rats, 1,091 guinea pigs, 755 hamsters, 1,683 rabbits, 27 horses and other equids, 4,706 sheep, 447 pigs, 12,750 birds, 817 amphibians, 193,543 fish, four cats, 442 dogs, 40 new world primates and 370 old world primates used in experiments. Increases occurred in the use of fish (increase of 88,640), rats (increase of 32,114), birds (increase of 6,273) and mice (increase of 3,538). 

Other key points from the statistics show:

• 469,481 procedures (79% of the total) were carried out at universities/medical schools
• 225,563 animals (39% of the total) were genetically modified or had a harmful genetic defect
• 414,528 procedures (70% of the total) used no form of anaesthesia

Animal experimentation is an issue of concern for many Scottish politicians. In the run up to the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, the BUAV carried out a survey of all candidates from the main parties. 100% of respondents to our election survey agreed or strongly agreed that more should be done to reduce the number of animals used in experiments, 36% of whom were subsequently elected to the Parliament. A motion tabled in the Parliament last session and supported by 11% of MSPs expressed concern over the high number of animals used in experiments in Scotland and supported a year-on-year reduction strategy.

Patrick Harvie MSP said, "Nobody should be relaxed about seeing these figures rise – not just campaigners but most researchers too want to reduce the suffering of animals wherever possible. There are clear opportunities at UK and EU level, in ending the use of testing on chemicals for domestic products. But the Scottish Government can help too, by working with researchers to support the development of non-animal alternatives which could ultimately become much more reliable methods for research than we have today."

John Mason MSP said, "It is disappointing to see a fairly large increase in these animal experiments. I would have hoped that we would be seeing a decrease over time and that universities and others would have been finding alternative methods of research. The overall figure then raises other questions in my mind: How many of these experiments were really necessary? How much did the animals suffer? I do accept that some experiments are necessary but our aim has to be reduce these to the absolute minimum. Figures like these make me wonder if Westminster has taken its eye off the ball. Maybe this is an area that would be better looked after by Holyrood."

William Bain MP said, "Most people will be astonished at the scale of animal experiments. The public also have the right to know about the type of species involved in testing. Scotland wants to see this practice ended."

Parliamentary Questions on animal experiments in Scotland