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Why did the British Government allow 3.9 million animal experiments in 2014?

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New statistics reveal unacceptable suffering of animals in laboratories

White Rabbit in a laboratory cage

Last week the UK Government announced that almost 3.9 million animal experiments were completed in Great Britain during 2014.  Mice, rats, rabbits, monkeys, dogs, cats, guinea-pigs, fish, birds and horses all suffered in British laboratories.  

The most recent data shows a slight drop in the number of experiments conducted from the previous year.  Yet sadly, this does not reflect the full picture of the continual distress, suffering and harm that is being inflicted on animals in the name of research.

This is the first year that the statistics have been collected in line with new rules governing the use of animals in experiments in the EU. Laboratories must now include details on the level of suffering the animals are thought to experience, using one of four categories: mild, moderate, severe and non-recovery.

Disturbingly, out of 1.93 million experiments, over 150,000 (8%) were assessed as severe and 483,000 (25%) were assessed as moderate.

Yet we believe the new process underestimates the actual level of pain and suffering the animals experienced.  This is because the assessment can be based simply on a cursory look at an animal through a cage.

It also fails to take into account other factors unrelated to the experiment that can result in stress, harm or death to an animal.  For example, stress induced by housing, harm or death due to a failure in the ventilation or water system, or fighting injuries.

The figures for 2014 also show a shocking increase in toxicity tests for which there are valid and accepted alternatives to using animals. This includes experiments like the cruel skin irritation and corrosion tests on rabbits, which have been replaced.

It is disgraceful that animals are continuing to suffer and die even when tests are no longer required by international regulations and alternatives are available.  This undermines claims made by the UK Home Office and research industry that animals are only used when absolutely necessary. 

One ray of light for animals though is new Home Office guidelines announced last week on how laboratories can home animals considered suitable for a new life. The guidance comes following our campaign for animals to be released from laboratories wherever possible. 

Thanks so much to everyone who signed our petition to the Home Office earlier this year – your 33,000 signatures have made this positive change for animals in laboratories possible.

Our mission has always been to end all animal experiments. But we also believe that steps can be made to change the lives of individual animals in laboratories, while we campaign for freedom for them.  We have long thought it is a travesty that animals, including dogs, cats, rabbits and horses, who could live a happy life in a loving home, are not always given that opportunity.

Our recent investigation at MSD Animal Health uncovered the shocking killing of healthy puppies and dogs who no longer served a purpose but were denied the opportunity of freedom. Our investigator was able to persuade the laboratory to release three beagles into her care rather than kill them. No one who has seen Oliver, Bonnie and Billie enjoying their new lives could deny their right to a loving home. 

So, we hope this guidance and the Home Office’s positive statement will encourage more laboratories to home animals they have used.

Thank you for helping us convince the Home Office to take this step in the right direction.

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