Animal Free Research UK says 3.4% decrease in animal experiments is wasted opportunity as COVID-19 forces change to medical testing regime

July 15, 2020

Animal Free Research UK has today condemned yet another wasted opportunity to make real progress with a decrease of just 3.4% in experiments on animals (3.40 million) in GB laboratories in 2019, announced by the Home Office this morning. The total number of animals genetically altered (created) or used for the first time was 3,325,708 (3,444,055 in 2018), a decrease of only 3.4% on the previous year.

The creation of genetically modified animals who were bred but not used in experiments accounted for 50.1% of all animals (1,666,490 animals), down 3.0% on the previous year (1,717,201 in 2018). The total number of animals who used for the first time in experiments was 1,659,218, down 3.9% on 2018 (1,726,854 animals).

Experiments on animals for basic research accounted for 56.9% of all animal experiments (984,316 experiments), up 0.2% on the previous year (982,270 experiments in 2018). Basic research aims to answer scientists’ questions about specific knowledge gaps, often for medical research in the hope that it will lead to treatments for human diseases.

The statistics were revealed just days after 77 leading scientists and academics published an open letter in the Guardian calling for an acceleration in human-focussed medical research in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced a reappraisal of what is necessary to deliver safe and effective medicines as quickly as possible. The call highlights the break from the linear process requiring animal trials before clinical trials with human relevant research approaches being prioritised in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine, setting a powerful precedent for how medical research is carried out.

Carla Owen, CEO, Animal Free Research UK said, “Today’s negligible decrease in the use of animals in laboratories represents yet more wasted opportunities to seriously address the country’s shameful reliance on outdated animal research. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a reappraisal of the linear medical research testing policy which requires animal tests before human tests and results in a c.90% failure rate. It has never been more imperative to set a clear timetable for regulatory change. If the UK is to become a science superpower, we must significantly increase investment in cutting-edge new approach methodologies such as organ-on-a-chip which are best placed to discover treatments for human diseases, save precious time and lives, and stop the senseless suffering of millions of animals each year”.

Notes to editor:
The UK Government’s 2019 statistics of scientific procedures on living animals in Great Britain can be accessed at:
An open letter signed by 77 scientists and academics calling for accelerated human-focussed medical research can be accessed at:
The UK Government’s announcement to cement the UK as ‘science superpower’ can be accessed at:
For more information about accelerating the growth of human relevant life sciences in the UK:

About Animal Free Research UK
Animal Free Research UK (formerly the Dr Hadwen Trust) is the UK’s leading medical research charity working to create a world where human diseases are cured faster without animal suffering. Since 1970 the charity has awarded £10M in grants to over 260 projects, advancing the development of human relevant research for human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and COVID-19. It is a founder member of the Alliance for Human Relevant Science.

Categories: Research, Veterinary
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