Category Archives: Statistics

Animal experiments in the UK decline by 5% in 2016

The UK Home Office has published the 2016 annual statistics showing the number of animal procedures carried out in Great Britain under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986; this covers all vertebrate species (and Cephalopods). In 2016 there were 3.94 million procedures carried out, down 5% from 2015 (4.14 million).

While we often describe these statistics as being for the UK, they do not include Northern Ireland (who carried out 22,508 procedures in 2015), and so are technically the figures for Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales).

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Procedures on animals in Great Britain for research in 2016. Click to Enlarge

Overall, 96.6% of animals used in scientific studies were mice, rats, fish or birds. Dogs, cats and primates (which are offered special protections under UK law) together accounted for 0.22% of the total (similar to in previous years). The statistics also reveal that almost half of all experiments (48.6%) were the breeding of GM animals which were not used in further experiments – this is almost identical to 2014 and 2015. Overall, 64.9% (almost two thirds) of all experiments involved genetically modified animals, this was down from 67% in 2015.

Different colours represent changes to the counting method in 1987 and 2014.

Trend over time in animal experiments in the UK. Click to Enlarge.

Using the trend graph we can see how the number of animals used in research appears to be flattening out after almost two decades of rising numbers. It should be noted that the Home Office reported in 2015 that it believes there were statistical errors in the 2014 report as a result of new counting methodologies, but that this has been ironed out for 2015 and 2016.

The last five years appears to show animal experiments remaining relatively constant around 4 million. While this is higher than in the 1990s, it remains much lower than the 5.5+ million animals used in the mid 1960s.

Procedures on non-human primates fell slightly from 3,612 procedures in 2015, to 3,569 (down 1%) in 2016. The number of procedures on cats fell by 19 to 190 procedures and on dogs rose to 4,932.

A ban on cosmetic testing on animals (1998) and of using great apes (gorillas, orang-utans and chimpanzees) in research (1986) meant both had zero procedures in 2015. It should be noted that some research may continue on great apes in zoos, however such research can be observation-based only as “procedures” on great apes are illegal under ASPA.

For the third time the UK statistics include retrospective reporting of suffering. Rather than just submitting licence proposals to the Home Office that include estimated levels of suffering, the researchers now have to report on what was actually seen (using a variety of measures). Unfortunately, the statistics put these in two separate tables (Table 3 and 8). So we have combined them to get severity for all procedures in 2016. We can see most experiments are sub threshold (38%; less than the introduction of a hypodermic needle), non-recovery (4%; the animal never awakes from anaesthesia) or mild (38%), with remainder as moderate (16%), or severe (3.9%) Overall the proportion of moderate and severe rose from 18.2% in 2015 to 19.9% in 2015 (though numbers in severe category fell). Also of note in the severity data is the rising proportion of sub-threshold experiments in the creation/breeding of genetically modified animals from 45% in 2014, to 55% in 2015, to 65% in 2016, suggesting improving methods.

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Severity of animal research in the UK in 2016

Other things to note in the UK statistics:

  • 48.6% of procedures were for the creation and breeding of genetically altered animals (not used in other experiments), 28.5% were for basic research, 13.5% was for regulatory purposes and 8.6% was translational/applied research [Table 1]
  • Over the experimental procedures, 64% of the “severe” experimental procedures were conducted on mice for regulatory purposes. This is often because death is an endpoint in such procedures [Table 3.1]
  • Over 97% of the animals were born in the UK [Table 2.1]
  • 49.2% of procedures were conducted in universities and medical schools, 25.3% were in commercial organisations (e.g. pharmaceuticals), 13.2% were done at non-profit making organisations (e.g. medical research charities), and 12.2% were done at other public bodies. [Table 11]

Speaking of Research congratulate the UK government on continuing to produce the most comprehensive statistics on animal experiments worldwide. It is also important to note that these statistics are released as a press conference each year where representatives from the scientific community speak about the importance of animals in research.

For animal research statistics of countries around the world please see our statistics page.

Source of UK Statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/statistics-of-scientific-procedures-on-living-animals-great-britain-2016

See previous years’ reports:

Speaking of Research

Switzerland’s animal research in numbers for 2016

The statistics for animal research conducted in Switzerland in 2016 were released today. We have translated these tables to English and these data are summarized below. Overall, there were 629,773 animals used in research and animal testing in Switzerland in 2016 — a 7.7% decrease compared to the previous year.

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Animal research in Switzerland for 2016 by species [Click to Enlarge]

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Animal research in Switzerland by species and use.
* We have added a column titled Total 2015 to aid with the ease of comparison to the previous year.

According to the Federal Veterinary Office, the BLV, this decrease is “mainly due to the completion of various projects with a large number of fish and amphibians”. Most of these animals were involved in basic research (64.4%), with “discovery, development and quality control” being the next most common (19.4%). The remainder were used for other reasons including disease diagnosis, education and training and protecting the environment. Mice were again the most prevalently used species (65.19%).

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97.1% of the animals used in research and testing was conducted on mice, rats, fish, and birds, similar to other European countries. Monkeys (198), cats (411) and dogs (616) together accounted for 0.2% of all research animals, with an overall decrease of 2553 animals from 2015 for these species.

Severity in Switzerland works in the follow way (Translated definitions of the severity grading procedure for animals used in experiments in Switzerland):

The following four categories are used for constraints on animals resulting from procedures or measures in the context of animal experiments:

  • Severity grade 0: no constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that do not inflict pain, sufffering or harm on the animals, engendr fear or impair their general well-being;
  • Severity grade 1: mild constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term mild pain or harm or mild impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 2: moderate constraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause short-term moderate or medium-long term mild pain, suffering or harm, short term moderate fear or short to medium-term severe impairment of general well-being;
  • Severity grade 3: severeconstraint: Procedures and actions performed on animals for experimental purposes that cause medium to long-term moderate pain or severe pain, medium to long term moderate harm or severe harm, long-term severe fear or a severe impairement of general well-being

Pain, suffering and harm, were also measured and classified under four grades of severity; 0, 1, 2 and 3. In 2016, 38% of experiments were Grade 0, 31% were Grade 1, 21% were Grade 2 and 2% were Grade 3.

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Severity of animal experiments by species, 2016

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Severity grade data are only available from 1997 onwards

These numbers are relatively consistent across time, with on average 78% of all animals being exposed to no or minor short-lasting pain and distress.

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Overall there has been a steady downward trend in the number of animals used in research in Switzerland over the last 30 years.

See details of Switzerland’s 2015 statistics.

 

Jeremy D. Bailoo

USDA publishes 2016 animal research statistics – 7% rise in animal use

The USDA/APHIS has published the 2016 animal research statistics. Overall, the number of animals (covered by the Animal Welfare Act) used in research in the US rose 6.9% from 767,622 (2015) to 820,812 (2016). This includes both public and private institutions.

These statistics do not include all animals as most mice, rats, and fish are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act – though they are still covered by other regulations that protect animal welfare. We also have not included the 137,444 animals which were kept in research facilities in 2016 but were not involved in any research studies.

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Click to Enlarge

The statistics show that 52% of research is on guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, 10% is on farm animal species, while 11% is on dogs or cats and 9% on non-human primates. In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 97% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). If similar proportions were applied the US, the total number of vertebrates used in research in the US would be between 12 and 27 million, however, there are no published statistics to confirm this.

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Comparing the 2015 and 2016 statistics there has been a small rise in the use of most species, apart from dogs (down 0.2%) and cats (down 5.2%). The largest rises were found in non-human primates (up 15%) and sheep (up 14%). Furthermore, it should be noted that this 6.9% rise comes a year after an 8% fall, putting the total number of animals used in 2016 slightly below the levels in 2014.

Animals used in researchand testing in the US 1973 - 2016

Trend in number of animals used in research in the US, 1973 – 2016 – Click to Enlarge

There has been a general downward trend in the number of animals used in the US over the past three decades; the number of animals used has more than halved (from 1.8million in 1986), with the use of dogs and cats down by over 65%. It is likely that a move towards using more genetically altered mice and fish has reduced the numbers of many other AWA-covered animals used. That said, non-human primates are one of the few species to have risen in use, from an average of 54,000 animals per year from 1977-2006, to 67,000 in 2007-2016.

In the UK, where mice, rats, fish and birds are counted in the annual statistics, over 97% of research is on rodents, birds and fish. Across the EU, which measures animal use slightly differently, 93% of research is on species not counted under the Animal Welfare Act. If similar proportions were applied the US, the total number of vertebrates used in research in the US would be between 12 and 27 million.

Rises and falls in the number of animals used reflects many factors including the level of biomedical activity in a country, trending areas of research, changes to legislations at home and abroad, outsourcing research to and from other countries, and new technologies (which may either replace animal studies or create reasons for new animal experiments).

The annual statistics are one example of openness and transparency in animal research, but the last few years have seen a greater number of institutions from all over the world publically acknowledging their animal research in statements on their website. This week, two separate openness initiatives were announced, with Americans for Medical Progress launching their “Come See Our World” website of free-to-use animal research images, and Understanding Animal Research promoting a 3D tour of four animal facilities in the UK.

Using the virtual tour you walk around real research facilities like this one at the University of Oxford.

On the subject of openness, it was disappointing that neither the USDA, nor APHIS decided to press release the figures when they were released on June 7th 2017, or even mention them in the website’s News and Announcements. The US could follow the past example of the UK, where the Home Office, in conjunction with the Science Media Centre, held a press conference each year to announce the annual statistics and to offer experts to explain and discuss the numbers.

Source of US Statistics:

Speaking of Research Coverage:

We will continue to bring you the latest national statistics as and when they are released.

Speaking of Research

Animal experiments in Israel rise by 51% in 2016

Israel used 507,018 animals for research and testing on animals in 2016 according to statistics released by The Ministry of Health’s Council for Animal Experimentation. This represents a 51% rise on 2015 – with the increase mainly due to a fourteen-fold increase in the number of cold-blooded mammals used (99% fish).

Testing on Animals in Israel for research in 2016. Click to Enlarge

There were moderate decreases in the number of rabbits, but the huge increase came from cold-blood animals, up from 12,784 in 2015 to 180,253 in 2016. According to the chairman of the National Council for Animal Experimentation, Prof Jacob Gopas, who spoke to Haaretz:

“If it’s possible to use fish, you don’t use mice, for example, and if it’s possible to use mice then you don’t use pigs,” Gopas says. Both the move toward using fish rather than mice in experiments and the efforts being made to raise fish with as few diseases as possible have contributed to the spike in the number of fish being used. Gopas notes that the vast majority of the fish used in research, 154,000 of the 178,000 that were used last year, were returned to their previous habitats.

No cats or dogs have been used in experiments in Israel since 2012. Primate numbers have edged up, increasing from 42 to 46 in 2016, though this is still less than 0.01% of total animal numbers. Primate experiments were under threat in 2014, resulting in seven Nobel Laureates, and seven major universities writing to President Netanyahu urging him not to further restrict animal studies.

Animals used in research in Israel in 2016. Click to Enlarge

Mice are still the most commonly used species in Israel, accounting for 51% of total animal numbers. Fish are the next most common at 35% (36% when other cold-blooded mammals are included). Rats and birds take the next two slots, with 8% and 4% respectively.

Trends in Israeli animal experiments 2004-16. Click to Enlarge.

Historical statistics show that until the spike in 2016, the number of animals has been fairly constant, fluctuating between around 275,000 and 340,000. The slight variations may account for individual projects which used a lot of animals, or from slight changes in science funding over the years. It appears that the sharp rise in 2016 is due to one or more research projects specifically working with fish – that account for most of the 170 thousand rise in animal numbers.

It should also be noted that Israel works hard to rehabilitate animals used in research. According to Israel Hayom,

The council noted that in 2016, its post-testing animal rehabilitation rate for monkeys, carnivores, farm animals and wildlife, excluding rodents and poultry, stood at 88%.

“The rates of animal rehabilitation in Israel are outstanding by any standard. Israel has been a leader in this field for years compared with the data published worldwide,” the council said, adding that it has so far funded nine projects aimed at developing methods that would minimize animal testing by finding alternatives that would not compromise research studies.

More information (in Hewbrew) can be found about the severity of animal experiments in Israel in 2016. The statistics show that 14% of projects were categorised as severe, 31% as moderate, 28% as mild, 18% as below mild, and 9% killed humanely for the purpose of collecting organs (not all countries collect this data). It is likely that projects are estimated at or above the actual severity level, and researchers would be in breach of protocol if they exceed their estimated severity.

Check out all the latest international statistics on our Animal Research Statistics page.

Speaking of Research

monkey animal experiment playing

Monkey on an Israeli primate breeding facility

Sources:

Czech Republic sees 2% fall in animal research numbers for 2016

The Czech Republic has reported a 2.1% fall in the number of animal research procedures in 2016, with 229,465 procedures on animals. This is down from 234,366 procedures in 2015. The falls were mainly in fish (down 11%) and rats (down 17%), while the biggest rise was in birds (up 17%).

Procedures on animals in the Czech Republic for research and testing in 2016. Click to Enlarge

Fish were the most common animal used (35%), followed by mice (33%), birds (13%) and rats (11%). Collectively these four species accounted for over 92% of animal research in the Czech Republic (in line with other European countries). Dogs, cats and primates together continued to account for less than 0.5% of research procedures (919)

The most common areas of research were “basic research” (35.4%),  “Conservation of the natural environment in the interests of the health or welfare of people or animals” (21.0%) and “Translational and applied research” (11.4%).

The trend in animal experiments in the Czech Republic. Click to Enlarge.

The number of animals used since 2013 has remained quite flat, at around 230,000 procedures, though it is not immediately clear why. The drop since 2012 may be a result of the new reporting criteria brought about by EU Directive 2010/63, which came into force in 2014 (though some countries implemented new counting procedures before then).

Source of Czech Statistics: http://eagri.cz/public/web/file/1497/EPZ16t_resorty.pdf

We will continue to bring you the latest national statistics as and when they are released.

Speaking of Research

Animal Research in South Korea in 2016

In February 2017 the Animal and Plant Quarantine Agency (APQA) of South Korea released its animal research numbers for 2016. We spoke to the Animal Protection & Welfare Division and have been able to get a translated copy of these figures. The tables below were produced by the APQA, and we thank Dr Lee for providing these figures.

In 2016, South Korea used 2,878,907 animals in research, up 14.8% from the previous year.

Animal research in South Korea for 2016 by species

Rodents, fish and birds accounted for over 97% of animals used in research – similar to figures found in Europe. Most of the rise in animal experiments came from an increase in rodents (+19.5%), though numbers for fish (+15.2%) and birds (+60.7%) also contributed. There were falls in several categories, including primate experiments, which fell 18.8%.

Severity of animal experiments in South Korea

South Korea also produced severity statistics, similar to those in Europe. 2.6% of research showed no harm to the animal, 28.4% was mild, 35.5% was moderate and was 33.4% severe.We are unclear if these categorizations are based on pre-experiment licenses (what the researcher believed the severity would be) or post-experiment evaluation (what the researcher saw the severity to be).

Trends in South Korean animal experiments 2008-2016

The number of animals used in research has risen sharply over the last nine years, up 279% over the period, rising at a fairly steady rate of over 250,000 animals per year. To see why, take a look at a graph, produced by Nature, on the growth of R&D in South Korea over the same period.

The huge rise in spending on basic and applied research means that animal experiments were likely to rise (and did) over the same period. In 2013, South Korea had more researchers per thousand people in employment (12.84) than Japan (10.19), the USA  (8.81) or Germany (8.54). Medical and health sciences were the largest discipline (by publications) in South Korea (see Nature article).

If you know of any animal research statistics not on our list, please contact us.

Disappointing lack of context by Cruelty Free International, as worst press release on animal testing numbers is revealed

Cruelty Free International (CFI), a British-based animal rights group (formerly known as the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection), has produced its annual press release about animal research numbers at British Universities. The release, entitled: “Disappointing lack of progress at UK universities as worst offenders for animal testing are revealed”, is full of hyperbole, half-truths and even a few outright factual mistakes. The release is likely to leave those readers who have little prior knowledge of animal research, with a less accurate impression of what it entails than if they’d consulted the universities themselves. The full CFI release can be found at the bottom of this article.

The press release begins with

Cruelty Free International has today revealed the five worst offending universities for animal testing in the UK, which are each responsible for carrying out experiments on over 175,000 animals per year. The universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge, University College and King’s College London, forced 997,839 animals to suffer in experiments in 2015. This represents a collective increase of 7% compared to 2014.

This might be more “revealing” if it wasn’t for the fact that these universities (and five more) came together six months earlier to proactively press release their 2015 animal research numbers. This release included nine case studies of research being done at the institutions in order to provide additional context to the numbers. The article was picked up by the Huffington Post (and a few other outlets).

From Huffington Post UK

The article included the number of procedures on animals carried out by each institution:

Perhaps CFI didn’t see it, you may ask? Well no, CFI’s Katy Taylor is quoted in the Huffington Post article, responding to the information provided by the Universities.  Interestingly, CFI ends the first paragraph of its press release by noting that this represents a 7% rise by the top five universities over their 2014 statistics. This rise is exactly in line with the 7% rise in animal experiments that happened across all institutions in the UK (on average).

Cruelty Free International goes on to provide a table of the numbers (which they erroneously describe as “number of animals” when they mean “number of procedures” – a rookie mistake for an organisation which claims to be an authority on the issue). It notes the rise in the number of procedures at four out of the five universities, but describes the (very small) decline in numbers at the University of Oxford as “virtually no change”. That probably sounded better for their release. CFI also gets the number of procedures at the University of Cambridge wrong – it is 181,080, a number which is freely available on the university website.

The five universities mentioned also appear together in another list – they account for five of the top six British Universities on the QS World University ranking. Perhaps what CFI describe as the “worst universities for animal experiments” are in fact some of the best universities in the world for biomedical research (all five are also in the top 50 world institutions for “biological sciences”) and for advancing human health.

These are the six top ranked British Universities on the world university leagues tables. The numbers on the left represent their position in the world, including institution outside the UK.

CFI’s press release then goes on to make unverified claims about things going on at the five universities. Because CFI provides no evidence or paper references for the claims that, for example, monkeys were “deprived of food or water”, or were “restrained for hours”, it is impossible to speak to the veracity of these claims. However, similar claims by other animal rights groups have often been found to be either false or misleading.

Dr Katy Taylor, CFI’s Director of Science, who is quoted in the press release, suggests these universities should be leading in “replacing and reducing animal testing”. Setting aside the fact that these institutions do animal research, and very little animal testing (which is a term for safety tests, usually done by pharmaceutical companies and CROs, and require by law before potential new medicines can move into human trials), the truth is that these institutions are leading the way in both animal and non-animal methods. For instance, researchers at the University of Cambridge have won NC3Rs Prizes, for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of animals in research, in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013; Oliver Britton at the University of Oxford won the prize in 2014 for a computer model of cardiac electrophysiology; and Dr Anna Williams at the University of Edinburgh was highly commended in 2011 for her work on cell cultures which can reduce the number of mice needed to test MS treatments. King’s College London, meanwhile, has developed a number of animal alternatives, such as this artificial gill system which reduces the need to use fish, and University College London is the home of the Replacement of Animals in Research Conference  alternatives conference. Just because an institution is doing great work Replacing and Reducing animal research, doesn’t mean overall numbers will come down – as this is influenced by many factors.

Finally we come to one of trickier claims. Katy Taylor goes on to say:

63% of the 65 universities that reported testing on animals in 2015 still do not publish their animal testing statistics online, despite claiming that they agree there should be more transparency.

It is worth noting that the Universities that do the most animal research DO publish their statistics online. A quick search found 22 institutions that definitely published their statistics – they accounted for 1,612,166 procedures, of the 1,977,928 procedures conducted by all universities and medical schools in 2015 (Table 11). So rather than saying 63% of universities do not publish their figures (remembering that some of these institutions may only do a few dozen procedures), it might be more meaningful to say that 81.5% of procedures are accounted for in the data published by universities. It is unclear where CFI’s figure of 1,920,171 animals comes from as it does not appear in the 2015 statistical report.

Taylor then goes on to attack the University of Bristol over its statistics:

Bristol University now stands alone as the only university experimenting on animals that still refuses to provide its figures on the grounds that it does not hold the information centrally, despite promising to update its record keeping.

The Freedom of Information Act sets limits on the time that institutions can be expected to spend answering any single FOI question. The Information Commissioner’s Office has agreed with the University of Bristol and has upheld their claim that the University would be unable to provide the information asked of it due to the excessive lengths of time it would take to collate. The institution is in the process of changing how this information is collated and has expressed its intention to proactively publish this in the future.

It is an open question as to why, six months after a press release from UK universities went the extra mile to inform the general public about how many animals were used for what purposes at these institutions, anyone would strip it of its context and case studies, add the word “revealed” and republish it alongside their own anti-animal research diatribe.

Given that Cruelty Free International regularly calls for greater transparency in animal research, surely they should be welcoming the work that top universities are doing to provide more information about the research they conduct – rather than using this information as the basis of a press release criticising such research. We must hope that journalists choose to report the accurate numbers and representative case studies of medical progress released by the universities, rather than the account of an organisation whose sole purpose is to end the use of animals in experiments.

James

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Press Release sent by Cruelty Free International
Disappointing lack of progress at UK universities as worst offenders for animal testing are revealed
Nearly 1 million animals tested at five worst universities for animal experiments
Cruelty Free International has today revealed the five worst offending universities for animal testing in the UK, which are each responsible for carrying out experiments on over 175,000 animals per year. The universities of Oxford, Edinburgh, Cambridge, University College and King’s College London, forced 997,839 animals to suffer in experiments in 2015 (the year for which the most recent figures are available). This represents a collective increase of 7% compared to 2014.
In 2015 the following numbers of animals were used by each of the top five universities:
  • Oxford University (226,214) – virtually no change on the previous year
  • Edinburgh University (212,695) – 6% increase
  • University College London (202,554) – 15% increase
  • Cambridge University (181,090) – 13% increase
  • King’s College London (175,296) – 6% increase
According to the Home Office, testing in universities continues to make up almost 50% of all animal experiments in Great Britain. Despite claims that animals are only used in tests where there is no viable alternative, the figures collected for 2015 by Cruelty Free International under Freedom of Information (FOI) requests or accessed from university websites show a collective increase of 7.5% in animal testing at universities from the previous year. In 2015, over 1,920,171 animals were used in tests.
Four of the worst five universities reported subjecting macaque and/or marmoset monkeys to experiments (all except for Edinburgh). Recently published experiments from these institutions included monkeys being deprived of food or water, being restrained for hours in ‘primate chairs’ to perform repetitive computer tasks, having electrodes surgically implanted into their skulls, coils implanted in their eyes, having portions of their brain damaged, being trapped inside plastic boxes or injected with antidepressant drugs.
Experiments by university staff were also carried out on rabbits, sheep, guinea pigs, ferrets, fish, birds, frogs, rats and mice. Recent examples include blocking or cutting the arteries of pigs and rabbits to induce heart attacks, and purposefully stressing rats by restraining them inside plastic tubes, restricting their food and keeping them in isolated, barren cages.
Dr Katy Taylor, Director of Science at Cruelty Free International, said: “Our top universities should be leading the way in replacing and reducing animal testing, yet they remain some of the biggest users of animals in Britain. The public wants to see meaningful and lasting changes towards ending the use of animals in laboratories; our universities should be setting the example not adding to the problem.”
63% of the 65 universities that reported testing on animals in 2015 still do not publish their animal testing statistics online, despite claiming that they agree there should be more transparency. Bristol University now stands alone as the only university experimenting on animals that still refuses to provide its figures on the grounds that it does not hold the information centrally, despite promising to update its record keeping. A Cruelty Free International complaint to the Information Tribunal about this failure is ongoing [1].
ENDS