Animal Aid

Number of Animal Experiments Continue to Soar

Posted 11 July 2012

Despite the coalition government's pledge to reduce the number of animal experiments, new Home Office figures reveal that the total in 2011 increased by 68,100 to 3.79 million, compared with the previous 12 months.

While much of the public focus will be on species such as dogs and monkeys (both of whom were used in fewer experiments), as well as cats and rabbits (who were subjected to more procedures), it is fish who suffered the greatest numerical increase in experiments, and whose plight is almost thoroughly unrecognised. As the government's own official advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, recognised in a 1996 report, fish are capable of feeling pain and stress. They possess, in addition to a central nervous system, pain receptors all over their bodies.

There were no fewer than 562,000 fish experiments in 2011 – a massive 15 per cent increase on 2010. Astonishingly, 141,000 of these procedures involved genetically modified animals. The great bulk of the fish experiments (342,000) were categorised as fundamental or basic research – often without a declared outcome in mind. Specified basic research areas included neurology, immunology and the respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems. The public will take some convincing that fish experiments can advance the understanding of human biology, let alone help develop cures for human diseases.

The other big increase relates to birds, who were subjected to 20,583 more experiments in 2011 – a 14 per cent increase. The vast majority of bird experiments were concerned with veterinary medicine – notably, parasitology, nutrition and microbiology – issues that concern the intensive commercial poultry industry.

It is mice however, in terms of numbers used and variety of torments inflicted, who continue to dominate the statistical tables. About half are now subjected to genetic modifications, designed to induce disease and weaknesses. It is a process that produces millions of animals who are discarded as 'failures', and whose deaths are not even counted. For every imaginable human disease category – from cancer to Alzheimer's – mice are poisoned, damaged, analysed and often literally binned. The total number of mice used in 2011 was 2,663,441 – a dramatic increase on the previous 12 months (2,496,878).

Important US federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency have publicly acknowledged their diminishing confidence in the validity of 'animal models' for regulatory toxicity (safety) testing. They now see such tests as expensive, slow and unreliable. The academic sector, by contrast, still imagines it can answer the great questions of human disease and infirmity through the use of animals. It accounts for an ever-bigger percentage of the total number of experiments by way of its basic or fundamental research.

It is not only the immediate animal victims who suffer as a result of this obsession – the human patients of today and tomorrow are also being betrayed. In total, the new Home Office statistics offer a depressing picture of pointless animal suffering, wasted resources, and a government adept in the dark arts of duplicity and cynicism.

Notes for Editors

  • For more information, contact Andrew Tyler or Dr Adrian Stallwood on 01732 364546

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