The BUAV has stated that it is shocking and unacceptable that animal experiments in Great Britain continue to rise and calls into question the Government’s commitment to reduce numbers. Figures released today show that during 2013, there has been an increase of 11,554 experiments to a total of 4,121,582. This is a 0.3% increase from 2012 and means that more animal experiments were carried out in 2013 than at any point since the new statistics regime was introduced in 1986 and is the third consecutive increase since the Coalition Government took office in 2010 pledging to ‘work to reduce the number of animals used in scientific procedures.’
Michelle Thew, Chief Executive of The BUAV stated: "Yet again more broken promises by the Government and more lives lost in this tragic failure to reduce animal experiments. The Government has now failed for a third year on its 2010 post-election pledge to work to reduce the number of animals used in research and, as a result, millions of animals continue to suffer and die in our laboratories. The UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing, yet we remain one of the world’s largest users of animals in experiments.”
In 2013, over 4,121,582 million experiments were started on animals, an increase of 0.3% compared with 2012. The number of animals used decreased slightly to 4,017,758 (down 0.4%).
71% of experiments were conducted without any general or local anaesthesia being given to the animal. Given that two-thirds of projects are given a 'moderate' severity banding because they, for example, include inducing cancer tumours or surgery, this is shocking.
The proportion of experiments that constituted breeding genetically modified animals and those with a harmful mutation rose to 51% in 2013. Research involving GM animals imposes a heavy welfare burden on the animals. Few animals show ‘desired’ characteristics, and so millions more may be killed (and not counted) even before any research can take place, while others die of severe and malformations caused by the genetic modification techniques themselves.
There was an increase in the number of non-human primates – up 1% to 2,202 animals used in 3,236 experiments (an increase of 7% of experiments). Experiments on primates can involve implanting electrodes or causing brain lesions/damage. They are also used in toxicity testing where they are forced to ingest, inhale or be injected with poisonous chemicals and drugs. Such research inflicts considerable suffering and distress.
There was a large increase in the number of dogs –up 11% to 3,554 animals used in 4,779 procedures (a decrease of 1% of experiments). The use of cats and dogs in research is an issue that raises strong public concern. The BUAV is calling for an end to such research through a high profile campaign (called ‘Our Best Friends’ which has strong celebrity backing, including from Ricky Gervais, Chris Packham and Jilly cooper) and science based arguments.
Most experiments carried out on dogs are for toxicity testing. The dogs may be injected with or force fed drugs and chemicals and then observed for signs of adverse (toxic) effects that can include vomiting, internal bleeding and organ damage, seizures - even death. The BUAV and FRAME recently undertook the most comprehensive analysis to date of the use of dogs to predict toxicity in humans. Data was analysed from 2,366 publicly available toxicological studies that used dogs. The study asked whether the use of dogs contributes significant weight to the evidence for or against dog studies predicting the toxicity of a given compound in humans. The paper concluded that dogs are highly inconsistent predictors of toxic responses in humans.
There was a decrease in the number of cats used – down 46% to 109 animals used in 270 experiments (9% increase in experiments).
There was a doubling of the use of guinea pigs – up 107% to 26,342 animals used in 26,342 experiments (107% increase in experiments).
There was an increase in the number of rabbits used – up 13% to 11,895 animals used in 15,099 experiments (9% increase in experiments). Rabbits were used in a variety of tests, including 4,166 pyrogenicity tests - test for contamination of biological medicines - for which there is a valid replacement. It is unacceptable that rabbits should continue to suffer in such distressing tests in which they held by their necks in ‘stocks’ for many hours at a time.
There was an increase in the number of horses used – up 73% to 330 animals used in 8,504 experiments (0.3% increase in experiments) – horses are used repeatedly for blood sampling for production of biological material such as serum.
The number of full time equivalent Home Office inspectors is now 15.7 - down 11% from 18 last year. This means each inspector is responsible for supervising 262,521 experiments per year.