IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Animal testing rises in UK despite backlash

The number of scientific experiments on animals in Britain -- home to sometimes violent animal rights action -- rose 4 percent in 2006, driven by increased use of genetically-altered mice, the government said on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

The number of scientific experiments on animals in Britain — home to sometimes violent animal rights action — rose 4 percent in 2006, driven by increased use of genetically-altered mice, the government said on Monday.

Scientists increasingly use engineered animals in order to better understand how genes function in search of better treatments for a wide range of illnesses in humans.

Britain's drugs industry, including global leaders such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc, argue such research is vital to medical progress but critics argue it subjects animals to painful and cruel experiments.

Mice, rats and other rodents made up the vast majority of the 2.95 million animals used in about 3.01 million experiments over the past year, according to annual figures from Britain's Home Office.

Dogs, cats, horses and primates accounted for less than one percent of experiments, which reached a 15-year high, the government said.

John Richmond, head of the scientific procedures division of the Home Office, said the report shows a steady increase in the use of genetically altered animals — a trend he sees continuing as researchers learn more about the human genome.

"We expect it to increase further because the network has been put in place for more and more work on genetically altered animals," Richmond told a news conference.

In 2006, genetically modified animals were used in 1.04 million regulated experiments, representing an 8 percent rise on a year ago and more than quadrupling since 1995.

Britain along with Germany and France has the highest number of experiments conducted on animals in the European Union.

The issue is a highly charged one in Britain where animal rights activists have carried out a prolonged campaign against animal research.