Intended for healthcare professionals


Animal tests rise in Great Britain

BMJ 1999; 319 doi: (Published 14 August 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;319:402
  1. Abi Berger, science editor
  1. BMJ

    The number of scientific procedures carried out on animals in England, Scotland, and Wales rose slightly last year to about 2.66 million, an increase of 0.9% over 1997. With the exception of the 1997 total, the latest figure represents the lowest number of animal procedures since 1955, according to Home Office figures.

    Mice, rats, and other rodents were used in 80% of all procedures. Some 73% of all procedures involved normal animals, although 10% of procedures involved a harmful genetic defect. The rest involved genetically modified animals, almost all of them rats and mice. The use of animals with genetic defects has risen by 10% and the use of animals with genetic modifications has increased by 27%.

    The number of procedures that used non-human primates dropped overall by about 6% Dogs, cats, horses, and primates collectively accounted for less than 1% of the procedures. The dog is a well recognised model for evaluating cardiovascular problems in humans, and 18% of studies that used dogs were for this purpose. Cats are considered a good model for neurological conditions, and most of the cat studies were performed for this reason. Most of the procedures in horses were conducted for the benefit of the horse species itself.

    Pharmaceutical research accounted for 18% of procedures, and cancer studies and immunology each accounted for about 10% Only 590 procedures for cosmetic testing were carried out last year, and since an end to ingredients testing was agreed in November 1998, no further procedures should be reported. Since May 1997 the government has approved a number of initiatives to restrict the use of animals in scientific procedures. These include banning the use of animals to test tobacco and alcohol products and issuing no further licences for the use of great apes; requiring ethical review processes in all designated establishments from April 1999; and increasing the number of animal welfare experts on the Animal Procedures Committee.

    Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain 1998 is available from the Stationery Office, price £15.

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