Animal Experiments at 25 Year High in the UK
The latest figures released by the Home Office in its annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals report show the number of animal experiments performed in the UK are at the highest they’ve been in 25 years, with a rise of 68,100 procedures in the last year alone.
The statistics, of course, don’t mention what exactly happened to these animals or how much they suffered, only which species were used and what percentage of experiments were mild, moderate or severe. Tests involving cats went up 26 percent, pigs 37 percent, birds 14 percent and fish 15 percent. Testing of rats was down by 11 percent, guinea pigs by 16 percent and dogs by 21 percent. The number of experiments being done on primates also declined.
Troy Seidle, Director of Research & Toxicology for Humane Society International/UK, called the report “deeply depressing news for science, medical progress and animal welfare.”
According to the Home Office, more than 3.79 million experiments were started in 2011. In 1987, 3.5 million experiments were reported. Animal advocates have found the increase to be at odds with government promises to reduce the overall number of animals used in research.
“You may be able to reduce the number of animals in specific areas, but the overall rise would tend to mask this. It’s something you can’t do in 12 months,” said Martin Walsh, head of the Animals Scientific Procedures division at the Home Office who calls the goal “a long-term project.”
Officials continue to claim that they’re promoting the 3R’s (reduction, refinement and replacement), but the numbers in the report tell a different story.
“The statistics show that last year, 35% of animal experiments were for fundamental biological research – much of it curiosity-driven, only 13% directly for human medicine or dentistry, and 43% of animal research was the breeding of animals with a Harmful Mutation or Genetic Modification (GM). The use of animals for fundamental research in universities has continued to rise (+7%). This rise in abstract/fundamental research, which does not involve trials for medicines, contrasts with the research industry’s public stance that research on animals is focused on testing cures for disease,” according to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV).
Yet, researchers and politicians continue to claim that their use of animals is vital to human health, or they wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, and that bringing an end to vivisection will mean an end to exploring cures for currently untreatable diseases. Oddly enough, the number of cancer related experiments dropped by 10,200, while toxicology experiments (eye and skin irritation and developmental consequences) went up two percent to 399,000. Apparently getting more chemicals on the market is more
important, or profitable, than helping cancer patients.
“The Government has so far got away with doing nothing on its post-election pledge to work to reduce the number of animal experiments. 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. The UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing. Unfortunately, these latest statistics show that the trend is actually going in the opposite direction,” said the BUAV’s Chief Executive Michelle Thew.
“Furthermore, there is no evidence that all this appalling suffering is producing any meaningful benefit to humankind because the Government and research industry persistently refuse to subject animal testing to rigorous review.”
A separate report found 39 license infringements in the past five years, one incident killed more than 200 mice who drowned in flooded cages, while another incident at the same facility resulted in the deaths of nearly 200 rats who were believed to be contaminated by water that had leaked through the roof.
Photo credit: Thinkstock