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FRAME welcomes fall in animal research procedures but feels more can be done

The Home Office has published the Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals for 2018, which report on the use of animals for regulated scientific procedures under the Animal (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA).

The government’s latest report reveals a total of 3.52 million scientific procedures were carried out in Great Britain in 2018 involving living animals. This is seven percent less than the previous year and the lowest number of procedures since 2007.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • 93% of all procedures were carried out on mice, fish and rats: 2.6 million of procedures were performed on mice, over 500,000 on fish, and just under 178,000 on rats
  • Over 11,000 procedures were carried out using rabbits, more than 4,000 using dogs and over 3,000 using monkeys
  • Around 1.80 million of the total number of procedures were carried out for experimental purposes. Over half (56%) of these procedures were for basic research, with the top three targeted areas being the immune system (22%), the nervous system (21%) and oncology (12%)
  • 1.72 million procedures were for the creation and breeding of GA animals. This is a 10% drop on 2017
Source: Home Office, Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain 2018

FRAME says the drop by seven percent in the number of procedures involving testing in animal is good, but that there is still more to be done.

“It is encouraging to see that the overall number of scientific procedures using animals continues to fall,” says Amy Beale, FRAME Scientific Liaison Officer. “However, there are areas where numbers seem unnecessarily high.”

“In recent years, FRAME has been concerned about the volume of animals currently used in the creation and maintenance of genetically altered (GA) animals,” explains Amy Beale. “Last year, around half of all procedures using animals were for this purpose. Within this there are issues with wastage of animal lives in genetic screening processes, plus there are welfare concerns that suffering can occur when inducing certain genetic defects. In many cases, a GA mouse may not provide as much useful insight into a human disease as a human-based model. Instead there are opportunities to utilise modern gene-altering technology to work on human cells directly.

“The government must ensure more funding goes into alternative, human-relevant research techniques which will provide better knowledge and outcomes for human health. New technology and methods are out there that must be developed, shared and used. We will hopefully see the number of total procedures involving animals continue to fall year on year.”

FRAME continues to question the use of certain species in some procedures, as Amy explains: “Whilst the number of procedures on ‘specially protected species’ has fallen over the past decade, there were still 18,000 procedures carried out last year on cats, dogs, horses and primates.

“Worryingly, the number of primates and dogs used has increased from 2017 to 2018. Most of these animals were used in experimental procedures for regulatory purposes, including the testing of products and devices for human medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. These species have extra protection as they are more likely to suffer pain and distress in a research environment. When choosing a species to provide insight into human health, we must question the value of information provided, as well as the relevance of the species and their ability to predict human responses. FRAME believes that, in some cases, the use of these animals is unnecessary.”

FRAME calls for the replacement of animal experiments by scientifically valid, alternative methods where possible. Where there are no valid alternatives available, the charity supports reduction and refinement in well justified and designed animal procedures.

The full statistics can be viewed on the Home Office website here.

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