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expert reaction to publication of annual statistics on animal research

The Home Office published the annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific research in Great Britain and the Animals in Science Regulation Unit (ASRU) annual report for 2012. The SMC also hosted a briefing on the report.


Dr Mark Downs, Chief Executive, Society of Biology, says:

“Good welfare and good research go hand in hand. We are encouraged to see that the UK’s high standards of animal welfare and a continued focus on the reduction, refinement and replacement (3Rs) of animals in research has led to a decrease in the use of animals for many species. The Society of Biology supports the use of animals in research when no alternatives are available and notes that it is the increase in the breeding of genetically modified animals which has led to an overall increase of eight per cent from last year, reflecting the growing knowledge of the genome and a stronger drive to address rare genetic diseases worldwide. The UK’s regulations ensure that any animal research carried out is reasonable and for the benefit of both humans and animals.”


Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive, NC3Rs, said:

“The headline figures do not highlight the significant advances in recent years to develop new approaches to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research. The NC3Rs is working at the heart of the international scientific community to fund and drive reductions in animal use and implement advances in welfare practice. Our success can be demonstrated across many research areas including diabetes, epilepsy, veterinary vaccines, pesticide development and research using non-human primates. This work cannot be achieved overnight, but depends on a concerted effort to bring about a culture-shift in how science is practiced.”


Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research, said:

“Research on animals has been involved in almost every medical and veterinary treatment that is available today, from antibiotics to insulin, cancer medications to the badger TB vaccine. However, almost two thirds of people in the UK do not know that it is illegal to use animals for cosmetic testing, or that it is illegal to use an animal if an alternative is available.  We recognise that the public wants – and deserves – more information about the use of animals in research, so Understanding Animal Research is leading on the development of the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, which will be published by the end of this year.”   


Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research and Innovation, Parkinson’s UK, said:

“One of the key points for me is the increase in the number of genetically modified animals. These represent the next generation of tools to understand complex conditions such as Parkinson’s. The development of these models, which much more accurately reflect the condition, are vital for the development of new therapies.”


Dr Ted Bianco, Acting Director of the Wellcome Trust, said:

“The scientific community is deeply committed to reducing the numbers of animals used in research, but despite significant progress, animals remain an essential part of helping us understand disease and develop much-needed new treatments. This year’s increase reflects the use of powerful techniques to help us model with greater accuracy human disease. In particular, the inclusion of genetically-modified mice, whose breeding alone counts as a procedure, is largely behind this increase, but will ultimately allow us to reduce the number of animals used.”


Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive, ABPI said:

“Animal research plays a key role in bio-medical research, helping us to better understand and improve the treatment of diseases in humans and animals. The increase in the number of animals used and in the procedures carried out should be seen in the context that such research has contributed to many of the medical advances we now take for granted. We have all benefited from vaccines and antibiotics developed to prevent and treat infections, and anaesthetics used in all forms of surgery.

“Medicines can now overcome serious conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. Research in the last few decades has also begun to tackle some of the more difficult medical problems such as heart disease, dementia, depression, many cancers and newly emerged infections such as HIV. Only further research will address these diseases and these studies offer hope to millions of people who suffer from them”

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