In the UK, Pigs Used Most for Research

In the UK, Pigs Used Most for Research

July 17th, 2012 // 12:27 pm @

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For those tracking the use of animals in research, the annual report from UK officials provides some interesting data concerning which creatures are used most often in experiments. In short, pigs are a hot commodity. There was a 37 percent increase last year, followed by increases for cats, birds and fish. Conversely, the use of new-world monkeys fell 68 percent and old-world monkeys declined 41 percent. Fewer rats, guinea pigs and dogs were also used.

Overall, about 3.79 million scientific procedures were begun in the UK last year, which amounted to a 2 percent increase, to 68,100. These procedures include gathering blood samples, modifying diets, conducting scans, and testing cancer meds and vaccines. Breeding of genetically modified animals and harmful mutants, mainly mice, remained stable and accounted for 1.62 million procedures (here is the report).

Of course, the reasons for using these animals varies. There was an increase in the numbers of procedures for direct diagnosis, which rose 1 percent; fundamental biological research, which rose 3 percent, to roughly 44,400 procedures; veterinary medicine, which saw a 17 percent increase to about 26,500 procedures; and a 54 percent increase, to approximately 41,000 procedures, in what the UK Home Office calls the protection of man, animals or environment.

Meanwhile, mice were involved in the largest number of experiments – 71 percent, to be precise. After the mice, fish were used in 15 percent, followed by rats at 7 percent and birds at 4 percent. Other mammals accounted for 2 percent of all procedures, of which dogs, cats and non-human primates combined were used in fewer than a quarter of one percent of all procedures, with a combined total of 7,300, which was lower than the 10,700 tallied in 2010 (read more data here).

“The increase in the total number of animals is mainly due to the breeding of mice and fish, and is not a good indicator of the great efforts going into reducing, refining and replacing animals in research,” Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, a charitable foundation that supports biomedical research, tells the BBC. But Michelle Thew, ceo of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, says, “as a nation of animal lovers, the UK should be leading the way in reducing animal testing. Unfortunately, these latest statistics show that the trend is actually going in the opposite direction.”


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