Skip to main content

Scientific Procedures on Living Animals

Volume 684: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I wish to announce that the publication Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals: Great Britain 2005 is being presented as a Command Paper (6877) today. Copies will be placed in the House Library.

This annual report meets the requirement in the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 to keep Parliament informed about the use of animals for experimental or other purposes. It also forms the basis for meeting periodic reporting requirements at EU level. There has been criticism in previous years, including from a House of Lords Select Committee, of the report providing too much detail and not being very digestible or reader-friendly. Therefore, some changes have been made to improve the contents and layout of this publication with the intention of making it easier to comprehend and follow.

The report shows an overall increase over the previous year of 1.4 per cent in the number of procedures undertaken. The total number of procedures was 2.9 million, an increase of 41,300 over the previous year. Although this is the highest total since 1992, it does not necessarily signal an established upward trend in animal use. A number of factors, including the economic climate and global trends in scientific endeavour, determine the overall level of scientific procedures.

Non-toxicological procedures accounted for about 86 per cent of the procedures carried out in 2005. These included studies for fundamental biological or applied research in human and veterinary medicine, with the main areas of use being for immunological studies, pharmaceutical research and development, and cancer research. Procedures for toxicological purposes accounted for the remaining 14 per cent of all procedures. About 73 per cent of these were for testing the safety and efficacy of new drugs and medicines.

In keeping with previous years, those procedures that used mice or rats (or other rodents) were the great majority, at 84 per cent. Those using fish amounted to 8 per cent and those using birds to 4 per cent. The total of all procedures using dogs, cats, horses and non-human primates—that is, those species offered special protection by the Act—was less than 1 per cent of the total.

Genetically normal animals were used in about 1.65 million regulated procedures, representing 57 per cent of all procedures for 2005 (compared with 59 per cent in 2004 and 84 per cent in 1995). Genetically modified animals (nearly all rodents) were used in 957,500 regulated procedures, representing 33 per cent of all procedures for 2005 (compared with 32 per cent in 2003 and 8 per cent in 1995). These trends have been evident over recent years, reflecting the changing balance in use between genetically normal and modified animals, and are set to continue as advances in genetic science open up new and promising avenues of research.

I should point out in relation to the statistics that the Home Office, as regulatory authority under the 1986 Act, does not control the overall amount of animal research and testing that takes place, the imperative being to minimise the numbers of animals used for justifiable purposes. We ensure, in carrying out our licensing function, that the provisions of the Act are rigorously applied in each programme of work. All animal use must be justified and, for each particular programme of work, the number of animals used and the suffering caused must be minimised.