The 2013 Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals reveal that the level of animal experimentation in Great Britain continues to rise, with 4.12 million procedures being conducted. The figures indicate that this is almost exclusively a result of the breeding and use of genetically-altered (GA) animals (i.e. genetically-modified animals, plus those with harmful genetic defects). The breeding of GA animals increased to over half (51%) of all the procedures, and GA animals were involved in 61% of all the procedures. Indeed, if these animals were removed from the statistics, the number of procedures would actually have declined by 4%. It is argued that the Coalition Government has failed to address this issue, and, as a consequence, will not be able to deliver its pledge to reduce animal use in science. Recent publications supporting the need to reassess the dominance of genetic alteration are also discussed, as well as the need to move away from the use of dogs as the default second species in safety testing. The general trends in the species used, and the numbers and types of procedures, are also reviewed. Finally, forthcoming changes to the statistics are discussed.
Robert D. Combes and Michael Balls
In 2013, an undercover investigation by the BUAV raised serious concerns about the use, treatment and care of laboratory animals involved in regulated procedures at Imperial College, London. This led to an inquiry, set up by the college, which found deficiencies in the local ethical review process and a general lack of focus on the implementation of the Three Rs (Replacement, Refinement and Reduction). The Three Rs concept is the foundation of UK and EU legislation, but surveys of the published literature show that lack of its adoption is widespread. In spite of numerous guidelines, publications and publicity material extolling the benefits of the Three Rs to both animals and science, as well as substantial advances in the development, validation, and deployment of mechanistically-based non-animal methods, many scientists prefer to use traditional animal-based approaches. In addition, such scientists tend to pay less attention than they should to strategic planning, experimental design and the choice of appropriate statistical procedures. They are often unaware of the existence of replacement test methods to address all or some of their objectives, and are reluctant to develop and use new replacement methods. We explore some possible reasons for these shortcomings. We summarise the welfare and scientific effects of each of the Three Rs, and argue that: a) there is an urgent need for evidence to be made readily accessible to prospective licensees, which directly demonstrates the beneficial effects on animal welfare of the implementation of the Three Rs, separately and in combination, and the direct link this has with the quality of the scientific data obtained; b) a detailed systematic review of this evidence should be undertaken to augment the inadequate content of the prescribed Module 5 licensee training offered currently in the UK; c) such training (including that suggested in new EU-wide proposals) should be much more comprehensive, with stronger emphasis on the Three Rs, all parts of the syllabus should be fully examined, and there should be no exemptions from Module 5 training; and d) as the responsible Government department in the UK, the Home Office should take measures to tighten up its guidance for local ethical review, and its system of inspection of designated establishments, to obviate the justification for future undercover investigations.
An Analysis of the Home Office Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain 2004
Michelle Hudson and Nirmala Bhogal
The 2004 Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals were released by the Home Office in December 2005. They indicate that, for the third year running, there has been a significant increase in the number of laboratory animal procedures undertaken in Great Britain, and that increasing numbers of animals are involved. The overall trends in the use of toxicological and non-toxicological procedures involving animals are described. Particular emphasis is placed on the production and use of genetically modified animals, the production of biological materials, and acute toxicity testing. The use of non-human primates and dogs is also discussed. The implications of these latest statistics are consider
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 prompted the Government to evaluate how public understanding about the use of animals in scientific research can be improved and how animal experimentation is regulated within the UK. This resulted in the publication of anonymous project licence abstracts. Here, the abstracts published between December 2004 and October 2005 have been evaluated, by using a scoring system which takes into account their content and format, in order to assess whether they provide information that will facilitate the increased implementation of reduction, refinement and replacement strategies. The potential impact of freely-available Home Office project licence abstracts on public attitudes to animal testing and on the quality of animal-based research, is also discussed. Although some abstracts scored well, in general, the abstracts were found to be severely lacking in detail about the welfare of experimental animals. Thus, the abstracts tend to present a distorted picture of animal-based research. Many abstracts lack the details which would reveal how the licensing criteria had been met. It is concluded that, in their current form, the project abstracts are not sufficiently informative. A number of recommendations are made, which address this problem.
Why do the Numbers of Laboratory Animal Procedures Conducted Continue to Rise? An Analysis of the Home Office Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals: Great Britain 2005
The publication of the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals: Great Britain 2005 once again provides evidence that the levels of animal experimentation in Great Britain are rising, the underlying reason for this being the continued and increasing reliance on genetically modified animals as model systems. There has been a gradual increase in fundamental research, as applied toxicological studies have declined. Of particular concern is the impact that the forthcoming REACH legislation will have and the apparent lack of urgency in facing up to this challenge. The major issues arising from the Statistics are discussed, including the increases in rabbit and primate procedures. The potential of newly validated and emerging techniques to counteract these worrying trends are also considered.
Barry Phillips and Maggy Jennings
Since late in 2004, brief abstracts of projects licensed under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 have been published on the Home Office website. These are produced by the Project Licence Holders, and their publication is seen by the Home Office as contributing to greater openness and to greater public understanding of the use of animals in science, and how it is regulated. Here, we assess the value of the database for this purpose, based on an examination of the 1400 abstracts published up to January 2008. The abstracts are generally strong on justification, but often very poor at describing the likely effects on the animals used. In many cases, they lack basic information on the procedures applied, and the numbers, and even the species, of animals involved. A significant number of projects lack abstracts altogether. In order to ensure that the database gives a complete and balanced picture of animal use in research, we consider that it should be mandatory to submit an abstract, which should include at least the species and numbers of animals used, the adverse effects they are likely to experience, and the severity limits assigned to the procedures applied to them. The value of the database would also be improved greatly, if it were more readily searchable, at least by species, level of severity, and broad area of research.
The publication of the Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain 2007 earlier this year, revealed once again that animal experimentation is on the up. This can mainly be attributed to the continuing use of genetically modified mice and an increased interest in investigations and tests involving fish. Here, some of the general trends are described, developments of interest are discussed, and the implications of the statistics are explored.
Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals 2011: Another Increase in Experimentation, but is there a Shiftin Emphasis?
The 2011 Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals reveal that the level of animal experimentation in Great Britain continues to rise, with almost 3.8 million procedures being conducted. Unlike those in previous years, this increase is not exclusively due to the breeding and utilisation of genetically altered animals, although they are still involved in the greatest proportion of procedures. That a shift toward fundamental research may have become the primary cause of increases in animal experiments is discussed. The general trends in the species used, and the numbers and types of procedures, are reviewed. In addition, some areas of concern and optimism are outlined.