Opinion Former Article

BUAV: Shocked at lack of progress to reduce animal suffering despite government pledge

The BUAV is shocked by the increase in the number of experiments carried out on animals in the UK during 2010. This increase is despite a government pledge to reduce the number of animals used in experiments. In 2010, over 3.7 million experiments were started on 3,642,517 animals, an increase of 3% (+105,000) since 2009 and 37% since 2000. 101,265 more animals were used in experiments in 2010 than in 2009 and 1 million more than in 2000. This figure is totally unacceptable, equivalent to beginning 10,205 experiments every day. It is also comparable to the figures when the law relating to animal experiments (ASPA 1986 Act) was written.

The statistics were announced today by the Home Office in the annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain 2010.

Key areas are:

• Despite overwhelming public opposition to the use of primates, 4,688 tests were carried out on primates. Although a slight overall decrease in the number of animals, an overall increase of 10% in number of procedures (reflecting increased re-use of animals). A shocking 72% increase in the numbers of tests on new world primates (such as marmosets).
• A large increase in the number of tests to produce genetically modified animals (GM) and animals with a harmful defect (HM) (1.6 million tests) GM and HM animals now make up 54% of all tests. This dramatic and sustained increase in GM animal use raises many welfare concerns regarding the suffering experienced by these animals.
• Number of tests on mice up 2% (2,670,067), new world monkeys up 78% (1,103) birds up 12% (142,034), and fish up 23% (490,944).
• Tests on rats down 9% (305,139), rabbits down 10% (14,833), cats down 32% (187), dogs down 2% (5,782), horses down 5% (8,324). There has been an increase in the re-use of dogs in procedures. The numbers of dogs decreased by 10% but the number of procedures decreased only 2%
• 69% of procedures were not conducted under anaesthesia; this is an increase from 65% in 2009.
• Despite a government pledge to end household product testing on animals, and for the first time since 2008, animals were again used for household product tests (24 animals)
• Use of animals for fundamental research in universities continues to rise (up 10%) compared to the pharmaceutical industry that has decreased its procedures by 19%.
• The use of animals in procedures for chemicals testing rose 48%, probably as a result of new EU chemicals legislation REACH.
• 7,688 toxicological tests carried on foodstuffs (mostly testing the safety of shellfish), 16,977 tests for agricultural products (such as pesticides, herbicides & fungicides), and 27,104 tests carried out on industrial chemicals
• Animals continue to be used in their thousands for toxicity procedures such as skin irritation, eye toxicity and acute lethal toxicity. The use of animals in skin and eye irritation has risen (by 51% (696) and 20% (513) respectively) even though there are valid alternatives. The Home Office is not doing enough to reduce these experiments.
• Animals continue to be used in disturbing tests such as thermal injury and physical trauma.

Contrary to the UK being hailed as a nation of animal lovers, 173 horses, 10,138 rabbits, 13,586 guinea pigs, 3,727 dogs and 152 cats were subjected to distressing experiments.

A recent review by the UK Veterinary Medicines Directorate found that 26 veterinary drugs were being tested on animals when there was no longer any scientific need. The review prompted a change in the licences for these drugs, sparing an estimated 38,000 animals over the next 5 years. The review was prompted by a BUAV investigation into Wickham Laboratories in Hampshire in 2009 which found that the laboratory was conducting horrendous rabbit and mouse tests for some veterinary drugs that international regulations no longer required. It is a disgrace that animals have continued to be used for years in tests that were no longer required by international regulations. Once again, it calls into question the Home Office and research industry’s claims that animals are only used when absolutely necessary. The Home Office should be enforcing this legal requirement and regulators given the power to force companies to keep up to date with scientific and regulatory requirements in order to reduce animal experiments.

BUAV Chief Executive Michelle Thew states:
“The UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing. Unfortunately, these latest statistics show there is a long way to go. Despite a government pledge to reduce animals in research, millions continue to suffer and die in UK laboratories, even when tests are redundant or alternatives are available. This is unacceptable. It is a disgrace that animals have continued to be used for years in tests that were no longer required by international regulations. Once again, it makes a mockery of the claims made by the Home Office and research industry that animals are only used when absolutely necessary. We call on the Home Office to weed out all obsolete and redundant animal tests by enforcing the legal requirement that companies have to reduce animal experiments by keeping up to date with scientific and regulatory requirements. We also call on the Government to fulfill its pledge to reduce animal experiments, and make meaningful and lasting change.”

NOTES:

For further information, images and quotes, please contact BUAV’s press office:

fleur.dawes@buav.org
+44 (0) 7850 510 955
+44 (0) 207 619 6978
 

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