Animal testing in the UK has reached its lowest level since 2007.
The number of procedures completed on live animals in 2018 was 7 percent lower than in 2017, according to data from Home Office.
Most procedures involved mice, fish, and rats — as they have done for the past decade — however, the use of rats in experiments has declined by 27 percent.
The number of experiments with cats also declined, dropping by 20 percent.
Fifty-six percent of procedures were conducted for research, typically studies involving the immune system, the nervous system, and cancer.
Procedures for creating and breeding fell by 10 percent and experimental procedures went down by 4 percent.
According to Understanding Animal Research, ten organizations are responsible for nearly half of all animal research in the UK. The Medical Research Council, the Francis Crick Institute, the University of Oxford, the University of Edinburgh, University College London, the University of Cambridge, the University of Glasgow, King’s College London, the University of Manchester, and Imperial College London are the organizations conducting a large amount of the research on animals.
The Problem With Animal Testing
While the number of animal procedures in the UK has dropped in the last 12 years, 3.52 million procedures were still conducted on living animals in England, Scotland, and Wales last year. And while some animal usage rates have declined, others have increased. The number of experiments on birds rose from 130,000 to 147,000, the number of tests on dogs increased 16 percent, and the number of tests on primates grew by 8 percent.
Animal experiments can also be unreliable. Animal welfare organization PETA states that more than 90 percent of experiments carried out on animals by the National Institutes of Health – the primary government agency responsible for funding scientific research – do not lead to effective human treatments, meaning the tests are “useless.” PETA adds that more than 95 percent of pharmaceutical drugs test as safe and effective on animals but then fail in human trials.
The ten organizations responsible for around half of the UK’s animal tests are committed to the “3Rs” — replacement, reduction, and refinement. This means they work toward replacing the use of animals when possible, reducing the number of animals used, and refining the experience of animals used in testing.
Other groups are working to develop animal-free methods of experimentation, like the organ-on-a-chip model which simulates the physiological responses of human organs.