Number of Scientific Procedures on Animals in the UK Increased Slightly in 2002

The UK Home Office recently released its annual Statistics on Animals in Scientific Procedures 2002 which showed a slight increase in the number of scientific procedures performed in 2002 as compared to 2001.

According to the report, there were a total of 2.73 million such scientific procedures performed on animals in the UK, representing a 4.2 percent increase over the 2.62 million procedures performed in 2001.

The slight increase brought attacks from animal rights groups. Dr. Penny Hawkins, who heads up the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ efforts related to research animals told the Press Association,

We hear an awful lot from scientists and the Government about everything they are doing to replace animals with alternatives. These figures reveal that they are failing.

Similarly, Wendy Higgins of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection told the Press Association,

This shocking rise, and the alarming increase in the use of genetically modified animals, is a shameful reflection of this Government’s utter failure to tackle the controversial issue of animal experiments. Nearly three million animals still suffer painful and lethal experiments in UK labs and the UK public are legally denied access to detailed information about what goes on. The Government is stuck in a policy vacuum on vivisection, meanwhile the lab animal death toll continues to go up and up.

Higgins and Hawkins are both lying about the alternatives and the trends in the UK regarding animals procedures.

First, this was hardly a shocking rise. In fact, the total number of animal procedures performed in 2002 was barely above the 2000 level. The total number of procedures declined by 3.5 percent from 2000 to 2001, so the increase of 4.1 percent from 2001 to 2002 simply returned the number of procedures back to the 2000 level (full statistics on all species for 2000-2003 are available here.)

Moreover, this represents a dramatic decline in the total number of scientific procedures on animals over the last 5 years. In 1998, there were a total of 3.4 million such procedures conducted on animals. So researchers in the UK have reduced the total number of procedures by more than 20 percent in just 5 years.

It’s simply absurd that Higgins and Hawkins would turn around and accuse research of not being serious about using alternatives.

Second, Higgins is simply lying when she says that all 2.73 million procedures performed in 2002 involved “painful and lethal” research. Consider the 710,000 procedures on genetically modified animals that Higgins is so horrified about. What she conveniently leaves out is that more than 550,000 of those procedures involved breeding. Now maybe things are different from Higgins perspective, but breeding animals typically is neither painful nor lethal.

In fact, almost 30 percent of the 2.73 million “painful and lethal” procedures preformed in 2002 involved breeding.


Scientific tests on animals increase. Western Mail and Echo Ltd., July 19, 2003.

Number of animal experiments rises. Sam Sheringham, Press Association, July 18, 2003.

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