THE PROBLEM – STATISTICS
According to the latest Home Office figures, more than 4 million animals were used in experiments in the UK in 2012, representing a 9% increase since 2011. This is equivalent to beginning over 11,000 experiments every day and represents the highest number of animal experiments (since the introduction of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act in 1986) in Great Britain. This is the third annual increase in the number of animal experiments since the Government’s commitment to reduce them.
Animals used included:
3,214 dogs, 202 cats, 2,186 primates, 10,538 rabbits, 191 horses, 500,056 fish and 152,359 birds
Experiments are still being conducted for toxicological tests where there are valid non-animal alternatives available, including: eye irritation (+3%) and pyrogenicity (fever) (+9%) tests on live rabbits. Not enough is being done to eliminate these unnecessary experiments.
The number of experiments using Genetically Modified (GM) animals has increased by 22% since 2011, overtaking experiments on genetically 'normal' animals for the first time. Research involving GM animals imposes a heavy welfare burden on them. Few animals show ‘desired’ characteristics, and are killed before any research can take place, while others can suffer from the severe malformations caused by the genetic modification techniques themselves.
A significant proportion of the research (32%) is fundamental biological research – much of it driven by the curiosity of university researchers. Only 12% of tests were actually testing new human medicines, and less than 9% of experiments were required by regulators.
The statistics for Europe are only published every three years. The latest figures show that in 2011, just fewer than 11.5 million animals were used, a small decrease (4.3%) from 12.0 million in 2008. France, Germany and the UK were the highest users of animals. The numbers reported to the European Union (EU) are lower than national figures because they currently do not have to report genetically modified (GM) animals that are bred but not used in experiments.
The 27 countries in the EU reported that they used 17,896 dogs, 3,713 cats, over 350,000 rabbits, over 8,500,000 rodents, over 77,000 pigs and 6,095 old and new world monkeys and prosimians.
34% of old world monkeys are still imported from non-EU countries, e.g. Asian countries (a decrease of 22% from 2008).
90 animals (50 rats and 40 mice) were used for cosmetic testing despite the EU cosmetics testing ban which came into force in 2009. This was done in France and Romania with no explanation in the report.
The use of animals for fundamental biological research has increased and now accounts for 46% of the total experiments carried out, while the use of animals for research and development of human and veterinary medicines has decreased and now accounts for only 19% of the total number used.
Source: European Commission (2013) The Seventh Report provides an overview on the number of animals used in the EU in 2011 for experimental and other scientific purposes.
Research by the BUAV and the Dr Hadwen Trust suggests between 82 and 154 million vertebrate animals (115 million on average) may be used worldwide each year. 79% of countries do not appear to publish the number of animals they use. Based on our results, and controlling for the same uses and types of animals we estimate that the top 10 countries are United States, Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
Source: Taylor, K et al. 2008. Estimates of worldwide laboratory animal use in 2005. Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 36, 327–342.