• Government pledge to cut numbers failing
• Speculative research unrelated to medical trials rising
• Rise in GM animals continuing
• Primate use falls, but rises for cats, cattle and pigs
The BUAV was today shocked at figures released by the Home Office today revealing the highest-ever number of animal experiments (since the introduction of the ASPA in 1986) in Great Britain, despite the Government's commitment and pledge to reduce the number of experiments.
In 2011, over 3.79 million experiments were started on animals, an increase of 2% (+68,100) since 2010 – 1.08 million more than in 2000. The BUAV is appalled by the lack of progress to reduce animal suffering. If breeding is excluded, the increase is even faster, by 3.4%.
This figure is totally unacceptable, equivalent to beginning 10,391 experiments every day. There were increases in the number of rabbits (+4% to 11,844), cats (+26% to 153), cattle (+77% to 3,772), fish (+15% to 562,245) and pigs (+37% to 3,962).
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.
Key points include:
• While the numbers of certain species, such as dogs and nonhuman primates used in experiments has decreased during 2011, the use of many other species has increased compared to 2010.
• The number of experiments using Genetically Modified (GM) animals has increased by 51,524 (+3%) since 2010. Research involving GM animals imposes a heavy welfare burden on them. Few animals show ‘desired’ characteristics, and so the millions who do not are killed even before any research can take place, while others die of severe and unrelated malformations caused by the genetic modification techniques themselves.
• An astonishing 2,695,721 experiments were conducted without anaesthetic in 2011, increasing by 127,435 (+5%) since 2010.
• Many animals were used in toxicology (or poisoning tests), including rats, mice and fish for experiments on pollution, an increase of 5,254 animals (62%) to 13,676 animals used in total in 2011. 5,792 more animals, including rabbits, dogs and birds, were used for experiments for agriculture compared to 2010 - totalling 22,769 animals used in 2011. There has been a 216% increase since 2010 (totalling 3,524 in 2011) of the number of animals, including rats, rabbits and dogs, used to test food additives.
• It is unacceptable that the number of experiments conducted for toxicological tests where there are valid alternatives available have increased since 2010, including: eye irritation (+35%) and skin irritation (+58%).
The Coalition Government agreement stated, “We will end the testing of household products on animals and work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research”, yet so far neither commitment has been met. The Home Office press release focuses on the National Centre for 3Rs (NC3Rs) which to date has funded just £25 million of non-animal research [http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/landing.asp?id=27], which is a very small fraction of the billions of pounds spent on animal research. It is evident that the commitment is inadequate to meet the Government’s stated goal, or even to prevent the position from worsening further.
The BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew states:
“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.”
“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.”
“These statistics call into question whether there is any serious intention on behalf of the Government to deliver its post-election pledge, nearly half-way through the Parliament.”