Animal Aid

Animal experiments increase again

Posted 15 July 2011

Animal Aid today accuses the animal research establishment and the Home Office of 'colluding in an escalating programme of cruelty' as the number of animal experiments continues to increase. Newly released government figures demonstrate how universities, often funded by grants from charities such as Cancer Research UK, are now playing the lead role in an area still largely devoid of proper scrutiny. Public donations are funding the expansion of an industry that should, and could, be shrinking.

Government statistics published yesterday show a 3 per cent increase in animal experiments in 2010, despite a pledge from the coalition to reduce the total. 3.7 million experiments were started last year - the equivalent of more than ten thousand every day. The figures point to an inexorable upward trend since the year 2000. Producing genetically altered or mutant mice accounted for nearly three-quarters of the latest rise, although there was also a rise in experiments on genetically normal animals, with an especially dramatic increase in 'procedures' conducted on monkeys, birds and fish.

The figures show clearly that the Home Office is sanctioning more and more curiosity-driven 'fundamental' research (up 10 per cent per cent in 2010), which by law need have no application to human medicine. Nearly a million such procedures were 'not relevant' to any human body system.

Almost half of all animal experiments are now conducted in universities, often using genetically modified (GM) animals. Cancer research accounted for 429,000 procedures (up 8,700 in 2010). Given that Cancer Research UK is the major funder of UK university cancer research, it is inevitable that many of these experiments are paid for out of public donations.

The animal experiments lobby claimed yesterday that the mice used for GM breeding suffer 'very little, if at all'. However, Animal Aid's new Victims of Charity report, details how GM animals created with diseases are literally 'born to suffer'. Immune-deficient mice are especially susceptible to infection. Others develop unpredictable tumours and degenerative diseases. Genetic alterations can cause increased anxiety, frustration and heightened aggression, sometimes evident in repetitive movements such as circling, pacing, jumping or back-flipping (see Notes to Editors).

Says Animal Aid's Scientific Consultant, Dr Adrian Stallwood:

'These latest figures show that animal experimenters and the Home Office are colluding in an escalating programme of cruelty. Tragically, the government is considering watering down the already feeble protection currently afforded laboratory animals as it begins to "transpose" a new EU Directive into UK law. This is despite the fact that Directive 2010-63 allows the UK to maintain stricter standards.

'The part played by medical charities like Cancer Research UK is especially critical. With an annual income of more than £500 million, this organisation is siphoning off public donations to pay for irrelevant and cruel GM mice experiments. Potential donors have a right to know about the suffering their money will cause to an ever increasing number of animals and the pointlessness of testing on animals.'

More Information

Notes to Editors

The Statistics

  • Just over 3.7 million scientific procedures were started in the UK in 2010, an increase of 3%.
  • There were 1.6 million procedures in breeding to produce genetically modified animals and harmful mutants, an increase of 6%.
  • The number of procedures using non-human primates increased by 10% to 4,688. Procedures using new-world primates increased by 78%, while those using old-world primates decreased by 2%. The re-use of primates also increased.
  • There were also increases in the number of procedures involving mice (up 2%), birds (up 12%) and fish (up 23%).
  • There were decreases in the number of procedures involving rats (down 9%), guinea pigs (down 29%), cats (down 32%), dogs (down 2%), rabbits (down 10%), horses and other equids (down 5%) and pigs (down 15%).
  • The number of procedures carried out in universities rose by 10%, while those carried out in the commercial sector fell 4%.
  • Some form of anaesthesia was used in only a third of procedures.

The Production of GM Mice

  • Standard procedures used to create and maintain GM mice include painful injections of hormones into the abdominal cavity of females (and their subsequent killing for egg removal); inducing false pregnancies in females, followed by major egg implantation surgery; and cutting off pieces of their tails for genetic identification. Breeding techniques are highly inefficient, with only a few per cent of manipulated embryos leading to healthy offspring - the rest are killed.

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