The statistics

The latest statistics for animal use in 2016 have been released.

The total number of procedures performed went down from 2015 by 5% to 3.94 million procedures. This included 4,932 procedures on 3,530 dogs, 3,569 procedures on 2,440 primates. 3.87 million animals were used overall.

Of the 1.91 million genetically altered animals created or bred, nearly all were mice (86% or 1.65 million procedures). Creation of many different strains of animals with genetic mutations to single genes is the main reason for such high numbers; as they need to be bred in large numbers to maintain the desired mutation. The number of genetically altered animals used in experiments has also continued to rise over the past 10 years, with another 1% increase from 2015 (720,000 procedures) to 2016 (729,000 procedures).

GM animals are defined as those with genetic characteristics that have been altered using genetic engineering and HM animals are those possessing one or more genes that have undergone mutation either naturally or deliberately induced and that are known to be harmful to the animal.

The main reason for such large numbers is the creation of many different animal strains with very specific and targeted genetic mutations to single genes. Such specifically altered animals (mainly mice) would require a large number of additional identical animals to be bred in order to maintain the desired mutation within that particular strain.

Between 2007 and 2016, the total number of procedures increased by 23% (735,000 procedures). The creation/breeding of genetically altered animals primarily accounted for this rise (745,000 procedures), while the number of experimental procedures decreased by 9,400 procedures.

Of the 2.02 million experimental procedures completed in 2016, the majority involved mice, 60% (1.22 million procedures); fish, 14% (287,000 procedures); rats, 12% (239,000 procedures) and birds; 7% (150,000 procedures). Experimental procedures involving specially protected species (i.e. horses, donkeys, dogs, cats, and non-human primates) accounted for 0.9% (18,000) of procedures in 2016.

Of note is the fact that the severity assessments for for 2.02 million experimental procedures (not including breeding) completed in 2016 show a rise in the number of procedures assessed as moderate or severe. In total, 35% of all procedures were assessed as moderate or severe compared with 30% in 2015. The number of procedures assessed as mild went down from 51% to 46%.

For the full report on the statistics on animal use in scientific research visit the National Statistics page for Annual statistics relating to scientific procedures performed on living animals in accordance with Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 on the GOV.UK website.

Animal Free Research UK is showing how research that helps us fundamentally understand human biology and disease can and should take place without the need to use any animals.

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