What do the numbers of animal experiments tell us?

Posted on July 14, 2011 by


Yesterday the Home Office published data on the number of experiments carried out using animals in the UK. There was a small rise in the number of experiments compared to last year. There are several reasons for this including an increase in the the use of genetically modified animals – about two thirds of which are used only for breeding rather than invasive procedures – and also it reflects the amount of health research being done in the UK into new treatments for patients.


Every year, the Home Office publishes the number of experiments carried out with animals in British laboratories. You can see past figures here.

Europe recently revised the directive which governs research using animals across Europe. This needs to be transposed into UK law by 10 November 2012. The government is currently consulting on this.

In some cases, the revisions may require the UK to draw up new legislation and guidance to foster good practice. But the UK currently has much stricter legislation in place governing research using animals than across much of Europe. As a result, in some cases there may be a balance between transposing the minimum requirement of the Directive or choosing to retain current higher UK standards and requirements.

AMRC is working with a coalition of bioscience organisations to respond to the consultation.

What do the numbers show?

Check out Animal experiments rise by 1 percent in the Guardian for a good explanation of the numbers.

Lord Willis, AMRC’s chair, explained the priority for medical research charities to fund research into new treatments for patients, this includes supporting using animals but only where no alternative is available to enable them to do the research:

Our Member Charities are dedicated first and foremost to medical research and finding solutions to long term often debilitating or life threatening conditions. Animals are only used where deemed absolutely necessary and their use is rigorously regulated by UK legislation – which is the toughest in the world. The AMRC and its Members will continue to strive to find new ways of carrying out medical research and will only endorse the use of animals where no alternative is available – a position supported by our Members who last year donated over a £1bn to fund ground breaking research.

Cancer Research UK’s blog has a great post explaining how important animal research is to tackling cancer – Animal research is helping us beat cancer

What next?

Interestingly, at the end of the article in the Guardian, Martin Walsh who is head of the Home Office’s animal scientific procedure division said that the government is planning a consultation before summer recess on how to reduce the use of animals:

He added that the Home Office was also looking at ways to meet a commitment in the government’s coalition agreement, which pledged to reduce the use of animals in scientific research and end the testing of household products on animals. Officials hope to publish a consultation on their ideas before the summer recess of parliament, said Walsh.

The commitment in the coalition agreement is on page 18.

As the House is due to rise on 19 July, we can expect this consultation very soon..

Posted in: Policy