More than 3.79m scientific procedures were carried out on animals in 2011, according to the Home Office statistical report, published today.
Despite a pledge by the UK’s coalition government to reduce the number of experiments on animals, and to ban them altogether for testing household products, last year’s figures are the highest for almost 25 years. A total of 3,710, 621 animals were used in 3,792,857 procedures. This represents a 2% rise over 2010.
More than 3.79m procedures, which range from breeding GM mice to mimicking neurological diseases in animals, were carried out, marking a rise of 68,100, or two percentage points, on 2010 figures.
The longer term trend continues to be upwards - there were 1.08 million more procedures than in 2000 (+40%) mostly accounted for by breeding to produce GM and HM animals (+918,000, of which mice +795,000). Excluding such breeding, the total number of procedures was slightly higher than in 2000 (+8% or +159,900).
There were increases in numbers of procedures for several species, such as cats (+26%), pigs (+37%), birds (+14%) and fish (+15%). There were falls for several species, such as rats (-11%), guinea pigs (-16%), dogs (-21%) and non-human primates (-47% with new world monkeys -68% and old world monkeys -41%).
There was an increase (+2%) in the numbers of procedures for safety testing (toxicology) to 399,000, due to increased use of fish in regulatory toxicology, with a higher proportion carried out to meet more than one legislative/regulatory requirement (75% compared with 72% in 2010). Most toxicology procedures are carried out in the commercial sector where the number of procedures also rose (+1%).
The number of non-toxicology procedures increased 2 per cent to 3.39 million, reflecting the higher numbers of procedures carried out in universities (+7%), particularly fundamental research. The increase for non-toxicology included increases in physiology (+115,100), immunology (+62,000) and parasitology (+22,000) whilst ecology (-30,300), anatomy (-27,000), biochemistry (-11,900) and cancer research (-10,200) fell.
The Home Office categorises animal research projects as mild, moderate or substantial, according to the severity of the procedures carried out. A blood test ranks as a mild procedure, while procedures used to model diseases in animals are typically ranked as severe. In the latest figures, 61% of procedures were moderate and 36% classified as mild.
Animal welfare organisations are disappointed and critical of the failure to reduce overall numbers in testing. OneKind – while working to end all animal experiments as soon as possible – believes that the government should commit immediately to ending severe animal suffering and that scientists should focus on changing these procedures so they cause as little pain and psychological suffering as possible.
The Home Office annual report on the use of animals in science is also published today, revealing that government inspectors dealt with 39 licence infringements in 2011, more than they had handled in any of the previous five years. In one case, 208 mice drowned when a water dispenser malfunctioned and flooded their cages. A week later, at the same establishment, eight rats drowned when a leaky roof caused more cages to flood. The laboratory upgraded its facilities and was required to submit a formal report to the Home Office.
The Home Office reports are available at
Separate figures for Scotland are not published but OneKind has asked Cathy Jamieson MP to lodge a series of written parliamentary questions so that this information is made available as soon as possible. We will also publish more detail from the statistical report in the next few days.