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July 13, 2011

HSI UK Condemns Animal Testing Rise as YouGov Poll Shows 69 Percent of British Public Want Experiments Reduced

Humane Society International/UK

LONDON—Humane Society International/UK says Britain’s animal experiments have reached a ‘crisis’ point with latest Home Office statistics [1] revealing animal tests have risen by 3 percent to a total of 3.72 million [2]. A YouGov/HSI opinion poll also released today [3] shows that 69 percent of the British public “support the government taking action to replace and reduce experimentation on animals.”

Home Office statistics over the last 20 years reveal a worrying and dramatic increase in animal use at university and medical school laboratories, whereas animal use across most industry sectors has declined. Overall, Britain’s use of animals in laboratories has been steadily increasing since the mid 1990s, with a 2010 total of 3.72 million experimental procedures on 3.64 million animals, the majority (69 percent) without any anesthetic. (Time-series graphs available here).

UK law defines “regulated procedures” as animal experiments having the potential to cause “pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm,” which in 2010 included toxicity tests on beagle dogs, brain damaging pigs, eye irritancy in rabbits, invasive brain research on monkeys, and the infliction of psychological stress in rodents.

Troy Seidle, director of research and toxicology for Humane Society International, says:

“Britain often claims to lead on animal welfare, but when it comes to animal experiments we have little to be proud of. Britain is Europe’s second largest user of animals for research, with the number of animal experiments having grown steadily over the past decade, particularly in the university sector. We’ve reached a laboratory animal welfare crisis point and it’s clear that UK citizens want to see action to reverse this shameful trend. HSI/UK urges the government to reduce animal suffering and improve the quality of medical research by replacing failing animal models with more advanced alternative techniques.”

A YouGov poll conducted in July for HSI/UK shows that the majority (69 percent) of the British public want the government to take action to reduce and replace animal experiments [4]. In May 2010, the government pledged a national reduction strategy [5] but no details have yet been published. Nearly 170 cross-party MPs have signed EDM no.435 in support of the reduction pledge [6].

Key statistics:

  • Overall there was a 3 percent increase in experiments from 2009 and a 42 percent increase over the last decade.
  • Rise in procedures on fish (+23 percent to 490,944); birds (+12 percent to 142,034); non-human primates (+10 percent; +78 percent new world monkeys); and mice (+2 percent to 2,670,067).
  • Drop in procedures on cats (-32 percent to 187), amphibians (-30 percent to 14,467); guinea pigs (-29 percent to 13,660); cattle (-18 percent to 3,585); pigs (-15 percent to 3,175); rabbits (-10 percent to 14,833) and rats (-9 percent to 305,139).
  • Further increase (6 percent) in procedures using genetically modified (GM) animals including those with a harmful genetic defect.
  • 436,046 animals were used in toxicity tests, including lethal poisoning, skin and eye toxicity.


Notes to Editors:

1. Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals—Great Britain, 2010, released in a summary, on the Home Office website on 13 July 2011. The complete document can be viewed here.

2. There were 3.631 procedures in 1987. The recent trend in animal procedures 1999-2010 is: 2.66 million animal procedures in 1999; 2.7 million in 2000; 2.6 million in 2001; 2.73 million in 2002; 2.79 million in 2003; 2.85 million in 2004; 2.9 million in 2005; 3.01 million in 2006; 3.2 million in 2007; 3.656 million in 2008; 3.62 million in 2009 and 3.72 million in 2010. See time-series graphs here.

3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,864 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 4th July 2011. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

4. YouGov/HSI poll asked: "Do you support or oppose the government taking action to reduce and replace experimentation on animals?" Results: 69 percent support, 16 percent oppose, 16 percent don’t know.

5. The government first pledged to “work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research” in its publication “The Coalition: Our programme for government" May 2010, page 18.

6. Early Day Motion no. 435