According to the latest Home Office figures, for the second year running more than 4 million animals are used in experiments in the UK every year (4,017,758 animals used in 4,121,582 experiments in 2013). This is equivalent to beginning over 11,000 experiments every day and represents, for the fourth consecutive year, the highest number of animal experiments since the introduction of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act in Great Britain in 1986. This is the third annual increase in the number of animal experiments since the coalition Government’s commitment to reduce them.
Animals used included:
3,554 dogs, 109 cats, 2,202 non-human primates, 11,895 rabbits, 330 horses, 501,841 fish and 138,287 birds.
Experiments are still being conducted for toxicological tests where there are valid non-animal alternatives available, including: skin irritation, eye irritation and pyrogenicity (fever) tests on live rabbits and botulinum toxin tests on live mice. Not enough is being done to eliminate these unnecessary and cruel experiments.
The number of experiments to breed Genetically Modified (GM) animals continues to increase annually, increasing 6% in 2013 to now comprise 51% of all animal experiments. Research involving GM animals imposes a heavy welfare burden on them. Few animals show ‘desired’ characteristics, and are killed before any research can take place, while others can suffer from severe malformations caused by the genetic modification techniques themselves.
A significant proportion of the research is fundamental biological research (28%) – much of it driven by the curiosity of university researchers. Only 13% of all experiments were actually associated with testing new human medicines, and only 8% of all experiments were actually required by regulators.
The statistics for Europe are only published every three years. The latest figures show that in 2011, just fewer than 11.5 million animals were used, a small decrease (4.3%) from 12.0 million in 2008. France, Germany and the UK were the highest users of animals. The numbers reported to the European Union (EU) are lower than national figures because they currently do not have to report genetically modified (GM) animals that are bred but not used in experiments.
Research by the BUAV and the Dr Hadwen Trust suggests between 82 and 154 million vertebrate animals (115 million on average) may be used worldwide each year. 79% of countries do not appear to publish the number of animals they use. Based on our results, and controlling for the same uses and types of animals we estimate that the top 10 countries are United States, Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
Source: Taylor, K et al. 2008. Estimates of worldwide laboratory animal use in 2005. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 36, 327–342.