Almost 4 million animals used in research in UK

The latest UK animal experiment statistics, released within the last few days by the Home Office, reveal a total 3.87 million experimental procedures on animals during 2014.

The majority of animals used continues to be rodents (1.8 million mice and rats), as well as more than 2,700 dogs (mostly beagles), almost 2,500 monkeys (the majority of whom were macaques imported from Africa), 38,000 rabbits and guinea pigs as well as 15,000 sheep, pigs, cattle and goats. Many other species were also used including cats, birds and ferrets. Of the total, half (almost 2 million) were carried out to create or breed genetically modified (GM) animals. Many GM animals bred also had harmful phenotypes, for example immune system breakdown or cancer.

Over a million animals were also used in basic or fundamental research – for example, the use of mice in experiments to test the effects of alcohol on brain development, or experiments on the cardiovascular, respiratory or immune systems.

The total number of 2014 experiments is stated as a decrease on the previous year. However it’s important to note that the way the figures are collected has changed for the first time this year, in accordance with the recently revised EU directive on use of animals in research.

Changes include now collecting numbers of procedures completed instead of procedures started. This is to allow for collection of new data on the actual severity, i.e. the actual pain, distress and suffering the animal is considered to experience during each procedure. But this assessment is widely open to interpretation.

The UK continues to be one of the EU’s highest users of animals in research, alongside France and Germany.

Dogs (among many other species) continue to be used in toxicity testing and monkeys are used in toxicity testing and basic neuroscience research, such as brain experiments used for decades to induce Parkinson-like symptoms.

Nearly half (49%) of all animal experiments in 2014 were conducted at universities or medical schools

Over 305,000 toxicity tests on animals were performed in 2014, including a staggering 133,000 lethal dose (LD50) experiments on mice, rats and fish. This is despite the LD50 test being widely considered for years within the toxicity testing industry to be not only cruel, but outdated and of little scientific relevance in predicting human safety, as it involves large doses of chemicals being given to animals until at least 50% of the test group is killed.

Other tests carried out in 2014 were for industrial chemicals, drugs and other substances such as household products. (138 fish were used in 2014 to test a household product ingredient to satisfy the REACH chemical legislation).

It’s also important to note that of the 3.87 million experiments carried out in 2014, only 13% (507,596) were required by law.

Lush Prize is working to change this. By providing a £250,000 annual prize fund for scientists, campaigners and lobbyists, we are supporting the amazing work going on around the world to end animal testing and replace it with progressive, humane, non-animal based research which is more reliable. For details of projects we have funded so far click here.

The full statistics are published on the Home Office website and can be downloaded here.