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Alternatives to Laboratory Animals - ATLA

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Home Office Statistics released

ratThe fall in the numbers of animals used in laboratories is a break from the general trend in recent years. Numbers fell steadily from the late 1980s until around 2000 but there has been an accelerating increase since then until last year, when they reached levels similar to those of 1987. FRAME hopes that this year’s decrease marks the start of another decline in numbers.


The main reason the numbers appear to have fallen is because of a reduction in research into human medicine and dentistry and protection of man, animals and environment, which could be a reflection of the current economic climate. It is to be hoped that figures do not start to rise again as the economy improves.


It is particularly gratifying to see a fall in the use of primates. FRAME is deeply concerned about the continued use of monkeys in UK research because they are highly intelligent and social animals that are likely to suffer more than others in laboratory situations. They can anticipate pain and it is possible that they can comprehend what is being done to them.


The 2009 figures show that for the first time the number of genetically engineered animals used in laboratories exceeded “normal” animals. The published figures give very little detail of the exact use of GM animals. Given the continuing rise in their use, FRAME would like to see further information on the types of procedures used in the course of breeding programmes to evaluate how the persistent rise can be halted using Three Rs principles.


FRAME Scientific Officer Michelle Hudson said: “It is extremely pleasing to see a reduction in the number of animals used in laboratories for the first time in a decade.


“It is hoped that this fall is due to increased funding and understanding of the Three Rs principles but there are many other potential reasons why the latest figures show a reduction, including the economic climate and general scientific trends."


FRAME’s ultimate aim is the elimination of the need to use laboratory animals in any kind of medical or scientific procedures.  Where the use of animals is currently necessary, FRAME supports the reduction of numbers involved to an unavoidable minimum and refinement of the experimental procedures to minimise any suffering caused. FRAME is dedicated to the development of new and valid methods that will replace the need for laboratory animals in medical and scientific research, education, and testing.

The Home Office has today (July 27) also published the results of a consultation exercise about the way the figures are published and what they contain.  FRAME was one of the organisations consulted during the process.


FRAME is pleased to see that this year’s figures have been published in more than one format, making them easier to interpret and compare. Data table design and format has also been improved so that the figures are clearer and easier to read.


Michelle said: ”We are pleased that the Home Office has taken these recommendations into account. The changes have increased clarity and transparency and are a significant step in engaging more closely with interested parties.


“We hope that more of the recommendations will be taken on board and look forward to further improvements in the future.”


The Home Office report can be found here.