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expert reaction to the annual statistics on the use of animals in scientific procedures in the UK for 2022

The statistics of scientific procedures on living animals in Great Britain for 2022 have been published by the Home Office.


Chris Magee, Head of Policy and Media, Understanding Animal Research (UAR), said:

“There was a drop of around 300,000 procedures this year, from just over 3 million to 2.76 million. Although roughly in accordance with long-term trends of declining animal use, year-on-year changes are primarily affected by the funding, focus and capacity of research teams.

“That said, we would expect to see part of the decline as a result of new research methods being introduced to the lab that either don’t use animals or use them differently, for instance being so mild that they no longer count as regulated procedures. Some new or improved non-animal methods also have the potential to give us better data, cheaper and faster, although they are not a panacea and many will need support and development to be applied more widely.

“New techniques are not confined to the non-animal space, as we’ve seen recently with transparent mice being used to successfully image tumours at unprecedented magnification and much earlier in the formation of the tumour than has previously been possible.

“Thus, a focus on animal numbers masks a more exciting story of research innovation across the board with new animal models, improvements to old models, new approaches to research entirely and new synergies building between them. If the life sciences receives the support it needs to realise the full potential of these innovations then our scientific output, health and the environment can only benefit.”


Dr Sarah Bailey, Senior Lecturer, University of Bath, said:

“The humane use of animals in research, with appropriate limits and care given to those animals, is essential for understanding disease and for developing new treatments. The publication of these statistics is important in supporting the transparency and openness on animal research in the UK.

“At just under 3 million procedures, these statistics show a slight drop in the total number of procedures in 2022 compared to 2021. 

“It is difficult to interpret this in relation to any longer-term trends, as many research projects and facilities will still have been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic in 2022.”


Prof John Martin, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, University College London (UCL), said:

“These statistics on the use of animals in medical research show that the research community in the UK is working hard to understand human disease and produce new treatments for patients in the NHS.”


Prof Clare Stanford, Emeritus Professor of Translational Neuropharmacology, University College London, and Chair of the Animals Sciences Group, Royal Society of Biology, said:

“Both the numbers of animals used for experimental purposes and the total number of procedures that were carried out are lower than the year before. Whereas this pattern is consistent with a commitment to the 3Rs, especially ‘reduction’, it is important to ensure that these changes do not reflect a decline in research outputs that are beneficial to humans and other animals, which would undermine UK’s status as a world leader in biomedical research.”


Dr Mark Downs CSci FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology, said:

“Animal research is an important area of the life sciences, which contributes to our knowledge of animal physiology and potential treatments for disease in humans and other animals.

“From the genetic underpinning of ageing and metabolic diseases or the complex mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders, animal experiments provide essential clues and evidence, alongside non-animal alternatives, such as human cell-based systems, organ-on-a-chip and computational methods.

“The UK has a strict regulatory system that requires scientists and laboratory staff to show competence before they can perform animal experiments. Each research project is individually assessed and licensed by the regulator, and reviewed by local ethical review bodies, before it can proceed.

“As a country, we have been leaders in laboratory animal welfare and culture of care, a track record we must strive to maintain. The animal research community continues to drive the development and update of innovative solutions to replace, refine and reduce the use of animals in research and testing (3Rs), under the leadership of the National Centre for the 3Rs.

“The Royal Society of Biology supports the use of animals in research when no alternatives are available, and is committed to promoting openness and transparency in reporting the use of animals for scientific purposes”.


Professor Nic Wells, Professor in Translational Medicine, Royal Veterinary College, said:

“The decrease in the number of animal procedures likely reflects a number of interacting factors. These factors may include a decrease in research funding, particularly from the charity sector, and an increasing focus on the use of non-animal alternatives. Additionally, it should be noted that, especially in the case of the generation and breeding of GA animals, a high proportion of procedures did not actually reach the threshold for pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or greater than, the insertion of a hypodermic needle in accordance with good veterinary practice. Only a very small proportion of the procedures involved severe suffering.”

Notes on the 2022 Animals (scientific procedures) Act Annual Statistics:

“Last year there were 2.76 million scientific procedures involving living animals (this is usually higher than the number of animals used, as under certain conditions an animal may be reused). A procedure is defined as anything that causes pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm equivalent to, or greater than, the insertion of a hypodermic needle in accordance with good veterinary practice (for example a vaccination). This is the threshold.

“The number of procedures was down by 10% compared to 2021, and was the lowest number since 2002.

“1.51 million (55%) were experimental procedures and 1.25 million (45%) involved the generation or breeding of Genetically Altered (GA) animals. Even if the genetic modification causes no harm (i.e. is below threshold) breeding natural mutants or genetically engineered animals is counted as a procedure. Experimental procedures have decreased by 12% and procedures for creation and breeding have decreased by 6% compared to 2021.

“96% of all procedures were carried out on mice, fish, birds or rats. Experimental procedures were 59% mice, 14% fish, 12% rats, 9% birds, 5% other species and less than 1% specially protected species. Procedures for GA animals were 86% mice, 13% fish, 0.6% rats and birds and 0.4% other species. The specially protected species are non-human primates, horses, dogs and cats and applications to work with these species undergo additional scrutiny.

“53% of experimental procedures were for the purpose of basic research, most commonly focusing on the nervous system, the immune system, and cancer. 21% of experimental procedures were for regulatory purposes, a similar figure to 2021. 24% were for applied research, a fall from 27% in 2021.

“The actual severity of experimental procedures on animals were 96% non-recovery (where the animals does not wake up after anaesthesia), sub-threshold, mild or moderate, only 4% were severe.

“The actual severity of procedures for the generation and breeding of GA animals were 99% non-recovery, sub-threshold, mild or moderate, only 1% were severe. 1.14 million (91%) used GA animals with no harmful phenotype.

“Mild severity is the equivalent of an injection or having a blood sample taken, moderate severity is greater than transient pain (for example surgery under anaesthesia followed by painkillers during recovery), severe suffering is something that we would not wish to endure (for example a heart attack). Animals found dead are commonly classified as severe as pre-mortality suffering often cannot be assessed. Most severe procedures arise in regulatory testing such as evaluation of toxicity of drugs.”



‘Statistics of scientific procedures on living animals, Great Britain: 2022’ was published by the Home Office on 13th July 2023

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Professor Nic Wells: “I am employed by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) but my comments reflect my personal opinion and not necessarily that of the RVC. I currently hold Home Office Project and Personal Licences.”

Prof Clare Stanford: “no interests.”

Dr Mark Downs: “No interest to declare.”

For all other experts, no reply to our request for DOIs was received.

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