Increase in number of experiments on animals

Increase in number of experiments on animals

Home Office figures on lab animal use, published today (30 June), reveal a rise in the number of experiments carried out using animals to 3.06 million - more than 8,000 a day.

We're calling on the Government to commit to a clear strategy for phasing out the use of animals in research and testing in the UK and phasing in humane alternative methods.

The call is backed by nearly eight out of ten of the public who agreed more needs to be done to speed up the development and uptake of alternatives to replace animal experiments in a new poll* commissioned by the RSPCA.

2.92 million procedures were carried out on miceThe poll revealed:

  • More than three quarters (76%) of UK adults agree that they are 'very concerned' about the use of animals in scientific research and testing.
  • 79% of UK adults agree that more needs to be done to speed up the development and uptake of alternatives to replace animal experiments.
  • 77% of UK adults agree that the UK Government should commit to phasing out the use of animals in scientific research and testing.
  • 76% of UK adults agree that the UK should be a global leader in moving towards the use of non-animal alternatives in scientific research.

The Home Office statistics, released today, show that in the UK during 2021:

  • 3.06 million scientific procedures were completed on animals last year (a rise of 6% from the 2.88 million procedures on animals carried out in 2020 - although there were two national lockdowns during 2020 which affected activity at research establishments).
  • This figure includes 2.92 million procedures on mice, 253,686 on rats, 418,965 on fish, 13,876 on rabbits, 4,107 on dogs and 3,246 on monkeys. 
  • 49.9% of the experimental procedures undertaken were categorised as causing animals 'mild' suffering, 22.2% involved 'moderate' suffering and 3.4% - 58,003 - involved 'severe' suffering.

We're working to end severe suffering in lab animals by 2030. Since 2014 we have seen a 61% reduction in the number of animals experiencing this level of suffering in the UK.

Avoiding and reducing animal use

Dr Penny Hawkins, head of our animals in science department, said the UK Government needs to go further and faster, or it will be left behind in the mission to end the suffering of animals used in research and testing.

Penny said: "As one of the world's largest lab animal users, the UK has a responsibility to lead the agenda on phasing out animal use, but we are currently in danger of being left behind by the ambition and leadership of other countries. This lack of commitment is simply not good enough and it is clear that the public expects and wants more action."

She added:

The vast majority of UK adults say that they want more to be done to speed up the development and uptake of alternatives to replace animal experiments and that they think that the UK should be a global leader in this regard.

Penny continued: "A strategy for phasing out animal use and phasing in humane alternative approaches is not about stopping important research, it is about reducing and avoiding the negative impacts on millions of lab animals each year.

"We want to see a clear statement, and commitment, from the Government, that transitioning away from animal experiments is a legitimate and desirable goal. And to help achieve this, much more focus and support will be needed around developing, validating and using Non-Animal Technologies.

"If the Government is serious about being 'a global science superpower' and wants the UK to benefit from being a significant player in a market for Non-Animal Technologies whose worth is expected to reach $2.6bn by 2026, it must also recognise the sound scientific and ethical reasons to actively move away from using animals in experiments that can cause them pain, suffering and distress."

Our primary aim is the replacement of animal experiments with humane alternatives worldwide. Until this can be achieved, our work helps to ensure that the minimum numbers of animals are used, they experience the minimum suffering, and their welfare is significantly improved.

  • *Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,359 UK adults aged 18+ online from 1-4 April 2022. Sample size was boosted in Wales for enhanced validity. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults by age, sex, region, and SEG. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Read the full data.