17.07.13

Today the government announced that the number of animals used annually in scientific procedures in the UK has increased yet again, and shockingly, has now broken the four million mark.

There have been disappointing increases in the use of animals such as mice, dogs and primates.

The figures include:

  • Increase of 8.4 per cent in the number of scientific procedures carried out on animals (compared to 2011).
  • Increase of 8.7 per cent in the number of animals used (compared with 2011).
  • Increase of 14.5 per cent in number of mice used (386,515 more than in 2011).
  • —Dog use increased for the first time since 2007 (3,214 in 2012 compared to 2,865 in 2011).
  • Increase in number of procedures involving non-human primate use – up by 22 per cent (+545) compared to 2011.

RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said:

“The latest figures are alarming and should serve as a wake up call to all involved to up their game in the mission to replace and reduce the use of animals in research and testing.

 

“We will be asking for an urgent meeting with Lord Taylor, the Home Office minister with responsibility for animal experiments, and with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, to discuss this issue which is extremely important to the lives of animals and so many of the public.”

Slipping standards?

Rat © iStockAt the same time, a separate report published yesterday on the work of the Home Office Inspectorate, which oversees the implementation of the law on animal experiments, shows a deeply concerning fall in the number of official visits made to UK animal research and testing establishments.

The report shows an 11 per cent fall in the number of official visits that inspectors made between 2011 and 2012. This means the overall number of inspections (1,285) has almost halved since 2007 (2,401).

The average number of Home Office Inspectors in post and carrying out normal inspection duties during the period 2007 to December 2012 also fell, from almost 25 full time equivalents (24.7) to 17.7. When taken together, this means that the number of animals to each inspector ratio has been consistently rising, from 126,551 in 2007 to 164,819 in 2010, and to a massive 227,870 by the end of 2012.

Gavin said:

“A poll released at the end of 2012 found that public confidence that the rules on animal experimentation are being well enforced has dropped, and the figures released today are only likely to confirm these views.”

Animals can and do suffer – but how much?

We campaigned for accurate information about actual animal suffering to be reported to the public, as the previous system just required a prediction of the “average” level of likely suffering for each project.

The UK law regulating animal research has recently been revised and includes some new requirements. Now, the suffering experienced by each animal will have to be assessed and reported following every experiment. This information will be published for the first time in 2015.

Increasing use of genetically altered animals

The number of procedures involving genetically modified mice rose once again last year. Genetically modified animals are now used in well over 50 per cent of all procedures. We have many concerns about this use of biotechnology as the techniques involved are often very inefficient - meaning that large numbers of animals’ lives are wasted.

Take action now

Join us in our campaign to reduce the number of lab animals by calling on Lord Taylor, Home Office Minister to deliver on the commitment to reduce the number of animals used in research.

Find out more about our work to help lab animals.

We can’t do it without you

To help the RSPCA you can donate online or give £3 by texting the word HELP to 78868 (Texts cost £3 plus one standard network rate charge).