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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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New Home Office figures released

Scientific procedures carried out on animals in UK laboratories have risen again and are now at the highest level since the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act came into force in 1986, in spite of coalition government pledges to reduce the number.


The 2011 totals show a 2 per cent rise over the previous year:  just over 3.79 million, compared with 3.7 million in 2010. The rise is not accounted for by breeding genetically modified (GM) animals as it has been in previous years.

GM and harmful mutant (HM) breeding, mainly of mice, remained at the previous year’s level. Excluding them, procedures rose by about 3 per cent, from 2.1 million to 2.18 million.

Species showing an increase were cats (+26%), pigs (+37%), birds (+14%) and fish (+15%).  But there were reductions in other species, for example rats (-11%), guinea pigs (-16%), dogs (-21%) and non-human primates (-47% with new world monkeys -68% and old world monkeys -41%).


The number used for safety testing (toxicology) rose 2 per cent to 399,000 because of an increased use of fish in regulatory testing. Most of this work is carried out in the commercial sector to meet regulatory and legislative requirements.

University research showed a 7 per cent increase with the majority being for fundamental research. Other non-toxicological fields showing increases were
physiology (+115,100), immunology (+62,000) and parasitology (+22,000).

But there were reductions in ecology (-30,300), anatomy (-27,000), biochemistry (-11,900) and cancer research (-10,200).

The Home Office report points out that, while the figures given are for procedures carried out, the numbers broadly agree with the number of animals used. However, it says: “Where an animal that has recovered fully from a completed procedure is used again for a further procedure it is counted as a separate procedure.” Hence the number of animals used will always be slightly lower than the number of procedures reported.


Copies of the report are available from the Home Office website

The latest figures are for 2011 and were issued on July 10. FRAME’s comments will be published later in ATLA and FRAME News.