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More Than 4 Million Lab Animals Used in 2013 - But For What?

14 July 2014

UK - The RSPCA is challenging the justification of using animals for scientific experiments, after the number of scientific procedures using animals rises again.

Last week the government announced that the number of scientific procedures carried out on animals in the UK rose once again (by 0.3 per cent, or 11,600 procedures) during 2013 and now stands at 4.12 million.

In total, there were 4.02 million animals used for the first time during 2013 – a slight fall from the 2012 figure (note: animals reused from previous years are not included in this figure so the overall figure will be slightly higher).

Compared with 2012, the statistics for 2013 show:

  • A further (6 per cent) increase in the breeding of genetically altered animals (mainly mice and zebrafish).
  • 107 per cent increase in procedures involving guinea pigs (up by 13,602).
  • 7 per cent more procedures involving non-human primates (up by 216).
  • 11 per cent more dogs used (up by 340).
  • 11 per cent fall in numbers of procedures carried out on animals for fundamental biological research.

Upward trend in the number of procedures

RSPCA chief scientific officer Dr Maggy Jennings said: “It is depressing to see no sign of an end to this upward trend in the number of scientific procedures being carried out using animals, at a time when the validity of animal experiments and the quality of the science is being criticised as never before.”

Increasing numbers of scientific papers are describing a lack of ‘translatability’ of animal research to human patients.

As well as widespread poor practice in the design, analysis and reporting of animal experiments.

Maggy said: “Given the serious doubts about many aspects of animal research and testing, you have to question just how much of this research is really necessary. How many thousands of these animals have lived, suffered and died for no real benefit?”

Future plan to reduce the use of animals

The UK coalition government has published a Delivery Plan to ‘reduce the use of animals in scientific research’, and the RSPCA has welcomed many aspects of the proposed programme.

However, the Delivery Plan doesn’t have a focus on critically reviewing and improving current systems for assessing the necessity of, and justification for, animal use.

Maggy added: “It’s time for the government and scientific community to publicly acknowledge the fundamental issues with the scientific validity and quality of much animal use – and to tackle these head on instead of continually banging on about the potential benefits and then carrying on regardless. Every animal who is wasted in poor science is one animal too many.”

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