Genetically altered animals

What is a GA animal?

Inside the cells of living things is genetic information, known as DNA. DNA provides the codes to make genes which help determine our characteristics, such as what we look like, and to some extent, how we behave.

Genetically altered (GA) animals have had their DNA altered. Animals with the desired characteristics will usually be bred from for use in a particular area of research.

A worrying trend

The use of GA animals in the UK (2002-2012)The breeding and use of genetically altered animals is increasing and now represents over 50 percent of all scientific procedures in the UK. 

Most GA animals are mice, rats and fish, used

  • to study how the bodies of humans and animals develop and function, and in particular the role of specific genes 
  • to study human and animal diseases
  • in the safety testing of some chemicals and medicines.

Some farm animals, such as chickens, goats, cows and pigs, have also been genetically altered: 

  • to produce substances such as antibiotics in their eggs, or milk, which may then be used in medical therapies 
  • to improve the nutritional value of their meat 
  • to try and reduce the impact they have on the environment (e.g. pigs who excrete less phosphorous).

What we think

We're concerned for three main reasons: 

  • Genetic manipulation has the potential to cause suffering not only to the GA animals themselves, but also to the animals involved in their production. 
  • The increase in number of GA animals used in research is reversing what was a downward trend in overall animal use. 
  • Using vast numbers of animals in this way increases the perception of them as 'research tools' rather than sentient individuals.

What we are doing

We liaise with funders of medical research and people involved in the use of animals in science, to promote measures that reduce animal use and suffering by: 

  • avoiding or minimising any pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm caused 
  • minimising the number of GA mice bred for use in research 
  • avoiding the duplication of research involving GA animals


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