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expert reaction to the release of the annual Home Office statistics on animal research

The Home Office has released its annual statistics on the use of animals in research.

All our previous output on this subject can be seen here.

 

Dr Liz Philpots, Head of Research and Impact at AMRC, said:

“The Association of Medical Research Charities welcome today’s publication of the Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain 2015. We are committed to the 3Rs, to replace, refine and reduce the number of animals used in medical research. Any decision to use animals is never taken lightly, and our members only fund animal studies when there is no alternative method. We understand that not everyone agrees with animal research. But we know that people are alive today because of research and animal studies have played an essential part in this progress.”

 

Prof. Dominic Wells, Chair of the Animal Science Group, Royal Society of Biology, said:

“The 2015 experimental animal statistics show that half of the procedures relate to breeding of genetically altered animals (GAA) and the other 50% relate to experimental procedures (35% of which used GAA). This is the second year in which the severity of pain and suffering actually experienced by each animal has been recorded. 94% of the breeding of GAAs was of mild severity or less and 70% of experiments were mild or less. The number of procedures involving moderate or severe suffering has also decreased compared to 2014. These data should reassure the public that the majority of animal experiments cause little, if any, pain or suffering although there is clearly room to further decrease the number of moderate and severe procedures.”

 

Wendy Jarrett, CEO of Understanding Animal Research, said:

“The majority of the UK population can accept the use of animals in medical research as long as there is no unnecessary suffering. It is good to see, therefore, that the percentage of ‘severe’ experimental procedures has gone down and that the experience of 82% of animals bred for or used in research is ‘mild’ or below.

“The retrospective severity reporting that was introduced in 2014 is very welcome as we try to help the public to understand what actually happens to animals that are used in research. Signatories to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK are already providing images, videos and written information about how they carry out, fund or support the use of animals in scientific research, and today’s statistics will help people to find out more about the reality of animal research in the 21st century.”

 

 

Professor Mike Turner, Acting Director of Science at the Wellcome Trust, said:

“Discoveries made through research involving animals underpin many of the medical advances that save lives and improve health on a daily basis. Like Wellcome, the Home Office is committed to improving public understanding of how and why animals are used in research, and we welcome the level of detail and transparency provided by the new reporting format.

“The statistics show that overall the number of procedures involving animals remains at a similar level to recent years. There was an increase in the number of procedures involving non-human primates, such as macaques. These procedures include testing that new medicines are safe and effective, and studies to understand more about the brain and neurological diseases, where close similarity to human biology is essential.

“We support 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.”

 

Dr Rebecca Lumsden, Head of Science Policy, ABPI:

“Animal research plays an important and necessary role in the discovery and development of new medicines and vaccines, helping us to provide better, innovative treatments for debilitating and life threatening disease. The pharmaceutical industry uses animals to help research new medicines and global regulators, including the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), require all medicines for humans and animals to be tested on two species of animals, one rodent and one non-rodent, in order to ensure patient safety. This use is reflected in the statistics on the animals used by commercial organisations and, without their use, we would not have the effective medicines for diseases such as diabetes, asthma or cancer, which save millions of lives worldwide. However, it is important that this research is underpinned by good welfare, and seeking to replace, reduce, and refine (3Rs) the use of animals wherever possible and in the UK we have the highest standards of animal welfare in research in the world.

“The UK Animal (Science Procedures) Act goes above and beyond in ensuring that animals are only used when there is no alternative, if the likely benefits of the research are judged to outweigh the likely harms, and at an establishment with appropriate facilities to ensure animal welfare. The increase in the use of animals, including non-human primates, in research reflects the excellent and growing UK biomedical science base, which is among the strongest in the world and based, at least in part, on these robust scientific and welfare standards in the regulation of animal research in the UK.

“Currently, there are no in-vitro or computer models to fully eradicate the need for animal testing in developing new medicines and vaccines, but the ABPI and our members continue to work on the 3Rs. The ABPI are in to a 12th year of collaboration with the National Centre for the 3Rs (NC3Rs), and we continue to expand our partnership and make important strides towards further decreasing the use of animals in the development of new treatments.

“This year’s figures include severity information, the second time this data has been included. This level of detail is immensely valuable to the public as it helps provide greater transparency and openness about the use of animals in research. It will also provide useful data for a comparison across the EU, which may help drive further application of the 3Rs.”

 

Dr Vicky Robinson, Chief Executive, NC3Rs, said:

“Anyone who thinks the statistics are a measure of efforts to replace the use of animals is mistaken. Whilst they record animal use, they do not in any way represent the many animals that have been saved through the development of alternative approaches. That said, there is a lot more to do to embed alternative technologies into scientific practice, to ensure that all animal studies are robustly designed to yield meaningful results, and to minimise animal suffering. The statistics will remind many of this fact.”

 

*https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537708/scientific-procedures-living-animals-2015.pdf

 

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