Animal Aid

Small drop in animal experiments masks a still-dismal picture

Posted 28 July 2010

The government has revealed that more than 3.6 million experiments were conducted on animals in British laboratories in 2009. This represents a 1% decrease on 2008. However, given that 2008 saw a massive 14% increase on the previous 12 months, the newly announced reduction gives little, if any, cause for celebration.

The use of animals who have been genetically modified or deliberately bred with a harmful genetic defect has been increasing rapidly for a number of years. The 2009 figures show a 13% jump, and for the first time, there were more ‘procedures’ involving this type of animal than those who are bred conventionally.

Mice, once again, were the most abused species in terms of sheer numbers used, with more than 2.6 million experiments conducted. This was an increase of 9% on 2008. Equally, the range of species used is often not generally understood. For example, more than 38,000 tests on sheep took place – up 6%. In contrast, there was a 34% reduction in the number of procedures on fish. But even with this decrease, nearly 400,000 such experiments were recorded.

The Home Office is both the licensing and regulatory Department, and there has been much criticism over the years of the small number of inspectors it employs to check on welfare and other legal breaches. Despite such disquiet, there were even fewer checks on laboratories in 2009 – a 4.5% reduction on the previous year.

In announcing the new statistics, the Home Office has been keen to declare the ‘good news’ that there was a 7% decrease in the number of procedures using monkeys. To put this in context, the 4,263 non-human primate experiments carried out in 2009 still represented 30% of the EU total.

The new Coalition government has also made much of its pledge to ban the use of animals for testing household products. However, the new statistics show that no such experiments were carried out in 2009. It is the chemical ingredients that go into household products that are tested, rather than the finished product. The Coalition’s pledge, therefore, offers scant encouragement.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘The Home Office, in its commentary on animal experiments carried out during 2009, is desperate to present upbeat news. But a 1% decrease on 2008, which itself was a record high year, is nothing to celebrate. Every one of the more than 3.5 million animals used is a victim of a system that is not simply cruel and unethical, but scientifically insupportable. The evidence is clear: animal research does not produce information that can be reliably applied to people.’

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