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expert reaction to Annual Home Office statistics on animal research

The Home Office has published this year’s annual statistics on animal research.

A briefing accompanied these roundup comments.

 

Wendy Jarrett, CEO, Understanding Animal Research, said:

“These annual statistics help to support wider efforts towards openness and transparency around animal research in the UK.  Many signatories to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research also publish their own statistics on the numbers of animals and species used, helping the public to understand more about how and why animals are used in different institutions. And earlier this year, four institutions created a virtual tour of their animal facilities at www.labanimaltour.org

“Retrospective reporting on the level of suffering experienced by each animal is also important to improving public understanding of the reality of animal research.  There has been a small reduction in the number of procedures categorised as ‘severe’ this year, and mild or sub-mild procedures continue to make up some 75% of the total, which is all to be welcomed.  The bioscience sector in the UK needs to continue its efforts to support reducing, refining and replacing animals in experiments, yet these statistics also demonstrate the key role that animals still play in medical, veterinary, environmental and basic scientific research.”

 

Dr Sarah Wells, director of the Medical Research Council’s mouse genomics facility, the Mary Lyon Centre*, said: 

“The management of colonies of genetically-altered animals is complex but we are developing increasingly sophisticated ways of breeding and genotyping them and preserving their eggs and sperm. These efforts are reducing the number animals required for each experiment.”

*The Mary Lyon Centre is a national facility for mouse functional genomics, providing world-class expertise and tools to generate mouse models of human disease for MRC Harwell and the wider research community.

 

Prof. Roger Lemon, Sobell Chair of Neurophysiology, UCL, said:

“Understanding the brain and its disorders, including dementia, stroke and many others, continues to require that certain types of research are conducted with non-human primates (NHPs). Research with NHPs, because of their physiological, cognitive and behavioural similarity to humans, has been a cornerstone of fundamental neuroscience research and has also led to advances in the treatment of neurological disease. Although procedures involving NHPs represent only a tiny fraction of the total (0.2% of all research animals in 20163), research involving monkeys understandably always attracts particular scrutiny.

The statistics include data on the actual level of severity experienced by monkeys in research: The figures reveal that almost all the procedures in which monkeys were used were either Mild (58%) or Moderate (40%). Only 0.6% of these procedures were Severe. Most of the procedures (87%) were involved in regulatory testing monkeys. A survey of NHP neuroscience centres in the UK has confirmed that none of the procedures involved in long-term neuroscience that were completed in 2016 were assessed as Severe.

The Expert Group welcomes the publication of these annual statistics which demonstrate that the great majority of monkeys used in fundamental research do not experience Severe procedures. Many group members continue to research the 3Rs and promote their application of procedures involving non-human primates.”

 

Prof. Jim Smith, Director of Science at Wellcome said:

“Discoveries made through research involving animals underpin many medical advances that save lives and improve health. Like Wellcome, the Home Office is committed to improving public understanding of how and why animals are used in research. The statistics show the overall number of procedures involving animals has slightly reduced since last year. This shows some encouraging progress towards reducing, refining and replacing animals in research.

“There was a slight increase in research involving some animal groups, but the number of procedures involving non-human primates remains the same as last year. Non-human primates account for a small number of procedures but remain an integral part of research where close similarity to human biology is essential, including testing safety of new medicines and studies to improve understanding of brain diseases. Wellcome supports the continued use of animals in research where it is legally, ethically and scientifically justified, and we are committed to developing alternative approaches where possible.”

 

*Statistics available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-of-scientific-procedures-on-living-animals-great-britain-2016

 

Declared interests

None received.

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