Number of Animals Used for Research in UK Increase Slightly

A report by Great Britain’s Home Office indicates that the number of animals used for medical research in that country rose from 2.73 million in 2002 to 2.79 million 2003.

For all experimental procedures, 85 percent involved mice, rats and other rodents; 6 percent involved fish; 4 percent involved birds; and less than 1 percent involved dogs, cats, horses and primates.

Home Office minister Caroline Flint said of the report,

There remains a clear need for the use of animals in vital scientific research where no alternative is available. This type of research saves countless lives each year and the Government fully supports the efforts of scientists working to secure medical advances and public health improvements. The UK’s controls on the use of animals are amongst the tightest in the world.

. . .

The Government has recently established the National Center for the Replacement, Refinement, and Reduction of Animals in Research to drive the search for alternatives to animal experiments. But let us not forget, this is essential, life-saving research. Scientists carrying out this work have been targeted by extremist groups and the Government has made clear that this type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated.

But perhaps the bigger long term threat is less from animal rights extremists than from relatively mainstream animal welfare groups that do their fair share to undermine support for animal research. It wasn’t surprising, after all, to see Nicky Gordon of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection tell The Guardian,

Non-human primates are our closest relatives and their capacity to suffer, experience stress and feel pain is clear for all to see. Subjecting them to medical research and toxicology experiments which require them to undergo brain surgery and swallow poisons is abhorrent and should be ended immediately.

It was a bit more surprising, however, to see this exchange between Dr. Simon Festing of the Association of Medical Research Charities and Penny Hawkins of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (emphasis added),

The overall increase of animal use in 2003 is due, in part, to the greater use of genetically modified animals in research aimed at understanding what the 30,000 or so genes inside every human cell actually do.

“One of the things you can do is add a human gene to a mouse so that he mouse gets a disease it otherwise would not have got, like cystic fibrosis,” said Dr Festing. “Then you can observe the mouse and try out new therapies on it.”

But Ms Hawkins said: “Do we actually need to know what every single gene does? Often this is being done without a clear applied medical benefit in mind.

For someone designated as a “science officer” for the RSPCA, Hawkins seems to have a great deal of ignorance about the importance of basic research.


Animal rights groups protest at 20% rise in experiments on primates. Alok Jha, The Guardian, September 8, 2004.

Animal laboratory experiments up 2.2% – Report. David Barrett, Press Association News, September 7, 2004.

EIDOS Releases Animal Rights-Themed Game for PS2/XBOX

Eidos recently released a videogame for the PS2 and XBox — Whiplash — which has the player navigating two animals through destroying a research lab and freeing the animals therein.

The game quickly drew fire from both researchers and animal activists, however.

On the research side, Ian Gibson of the House of Commons select committee on science and technology said that the game’s over-the top setting (the two main characters are spastic animals who have been used to test a hair spray) would lead children to have distorted views of animal research,

This is unhelpful to the whole debate. It is a nasty and vicious way of prejudicing young minds for the rest of their lives. Young people with fresh minds need to be brought into an understanding of the problem with both sides of the argument being put forward in a rational and reasonable way. Clearly such programs are not bringing a balanced judgment to serious and difficult areas of understanding.

But the game was not a big hit with the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals, either, with deputy head of research Penny Hawkins complaining that the game makes light of animal suffering,

Animals suffer when they are used in research and it’s extremely disappointing that someone would see fit to produce a so-called humorous computer game out of that suffering. The RSPCA puts a lot of effort into encouraging children to be compassionate towards animals and empathize with them. This is obviously sending out completely the opposite message, that animal suffering is funny — that it is something to make a joke out of.

So which is it — or neither. Well here’s how one Internet reviewer described the game play, and I can’t imagine many animal rights activists thinking this is promoting their cause,

So you go to your only main weapon…….Redmond. Your fuzzy little bunny partner becomes the instrument of destruction for you, simply by beating the ever loving hell out of him, and using him to get past various obsticles. And when I mean use him, I mean physically. This poor rabbit takes a ton of abuse! When you come to people you need to knock out, Spanx uses Redmond as a mace, whipping him around and smacking him into the bad guys. Do that enough times, and Redmond will go into a rage and really tear into whatever he can. So you use him to smash up more things! He’s only a rabbit you know. That’s just the humane stuff! It’s hard to explain the extent of the things Redmond is forced to do. For example you come to a big gap in the floor with an electric ring hanging in the middle. So you toss Redmond at the ring, and while he’s sticking to it and frying like an egg, you can cross to the other side of the gap. Need to set something on fire? Find a special machine that burns things up and throw the rabbit in! He should stay crispy just long enough to do what you have to. You can fill Redmond up with helium to float in the air like a balloon to reach high places, and you can dip him into radioactive waste and use him as a poisoned wrecking ball. You even stick him in the toilet now and again!! This is just the beginning, you can eventually learn how to use Redmond in a number of other ways.

Both groups should just take a deep breath — its an over-the-top game. Children are not going to think it’s a realistic depiction of animal research or of how to treat animals anymore than they are going to think that Simpson’s Road Rage is an accurate simulation of proper driving techniques.


Free the animals, smash up the lab and chain-whip policemen — this is the latest video game for children. Richard McComb and Renee Mickelburgh, The Daily Telegraph (London), February 15, 2004.

Two really strange peas in one bizzare pod. Michael Mullis, NLGaming, November 20, 2003.

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.