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Slight decrease in UK animal experiments

The Home Office published the annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific research for 2009. The results show that there was a slight decrease in the number of procedures in the UK by 36,540 (approximately 1%) to over 3.6 million experiments, compared to 3.7 million in 2008 which was the highest level in over 20 years.

The Home Office’s Animals Scientific Procedures Inspectorate & Division Annual Report 2009 also stated that 5% of the personal licences which were processed were done under “fast-track” procedures, taking “an average of just five working days”. The Government’s report also revealed a decrease in the number of inspections of animal laboratories by 4.5% and contact hours by 0.3%, compared to 2008. This decrease is linked with the report of 29 infringements, one of which involved “unnecessary avoidable suffering in a marmoset.”

The number of animals used for safety testing for household products has gone down to 0 compared to 132 mice used in 2008. In response to a parliamentary question, Lynne Featherstone MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office, said: “the coalition Government have pledged to end the testing of household products on animals. Work is under way to define the range of products affected and to determine how an end to such testing can best be achieved.”

The announcement of the UK Government statistics coincides with the final stages of the review of the new European Directive for the protection of animals used in Scientific Procedures. The Directive will now go to Plenary for a final vote this autumn. This will be the last step before the transposition phase at the national level in the UK.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive NAVS: “Despite a slight decrease in the total number of animals used in scientific procedures, the use of animals in experiments the UK is still concerning. The number of primates used in experiments has gone down by 16%; however, the number of marmosets and tamarins used has gone up from 262 to 498. The number of procedures using these primates has also risen by 68%.We urge the UK Government to fulfil its commitment of setting the highest standards of animal protection, ending the use of animals in testing household products is a positive start point. It is time to draw a line under cruel and unnecessary tests.”

What’s happening in UK labs?

3.6 million experiments were performed on animals in 2009.

Examples of number of animals used:

  • Primates: 2,815
  • Dogs: 4,129
  • Cats: 172
  • Rabbits: 11,643
  • Rats: 323,054
  • Mice: 2,618,674

Examples of how the animals are used:

Genetic modification.
The use of genetically modified animals has gone up by over 13%, 1.5 million compared to 1.3 million used in 2008. For the first time there was a higher total number of procedures using genetically modified animals and animals with harmful mutations than genetically “normal” animals.

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