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Britain’s animal testing

Home Office stats show continued slow fall in number of animal tests in Britain
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Beagle dog in a cage for experiment

Statistics released by the Home Office have revealed that there were 2,761,204 uses of animals in laboratories in Great Britain in 2022, a decrease of 10% on the previous year. 
 
Animal protection NGO Cruelty Free International, the leading organisation working towards ending animal experiments worldwide, welcomes the decrease but calls for an accelerated
reduction in the number of animals used in tests, in line with the government’s recent commitment to developing and using more non-animal methods.

Why are we testing on animals?

In 2022, the creation and breeding of genetically altered animals – those whose genes have
been modified but have not then been used in further tests – accounted for 45% of all uses (1,248,994).

Basic research (curiosity-driven research that attempts to shed light on biological processes) accounted for 29% of the total; translational research (research that attempts to develop treatments or cures for diseases) 13%; regulatory testing (standardised tests designed to assess the safety or efficacy of chemicals, medicines and other products) 10% and routine production (using animals to produce things like antibodies that go on to be used as medicines and in other applications) 2%. 
 
These figures also show the progress made in eliminating outdated tests, as are described by Cruelty Free International’s UK RAT List – a list of five animal tests that are conducted in Britain despite having approved non-animal replacements and whose abolition could save over 80,000 animals every year.

Testing on cats, dogs, monkeys and rabbits

2022 saw welcome decreases in skin irritation, skin sensitisation and batch potency tests on animals, but disappointingly there was an increase in eye irritation tests on rabbits.
 
While severe uses of animals, which cause the most pain and suffering to the animals involved – including long-term disease and even death – decreased overall by 18%.

‘Since around 2015, the general trend has been for a small reduction, year on year, in the number of tests performed on animals in Britain. We welcome these latest statistics which indicate that the trend continues, with 10% fewer tests recorded for 2022. Yet there is definitely more to be done, and we can do much better than this very gradual reduction.

‘Our work will continue to help drive these numbers down, and we need the government, regulators and researchers to be proactive in ensuring that this progress not only continues but accelerates. The government must honour the Home Secretary’s commitment towards developing alternatives to animal testing.
 
‘Any cruel animal test is one too many and we will continue to fight for zero animal experiments in Great Britain. We are calling for the government to draw up a plan to phase out animal testing for good, by accelerating progress and embracing opportunities for scientific innovation.

‘We need a new ministerial role to deliver the plan, dedicated to accelerating the transition and holding the government to account across all departments so that we can bring about the world free from animal testing that we all want to see.’
 
DR EMMA GRANGE
Cruelty Free International’s Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs

There were 20 severe experiments on dogs in 2022, rising from zero in 2021.

There was also an 18% increase in severe experiments on rabbits (to 94) and a 5% rise in severe experiments on guinea pigs (to 1,317).

Moderate uses, which cause significant suffering to an animal but are not life threatening, increased overall by 4%.

The total number of experiments on dogs fell by 2%, to 4,122. The number of tests using cats fell by 34%, to 102, and there was a 21% decrease in experiments on monkeys, to 2,197.

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