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.

Europe Approves Eventual, Someday, Maybe "Ban" on Animal Testing

The European parliament this month approved its so-called ban on animal testing for cosmetics products. What the “ban” really means since the full force of its provisions won’t go into effect for at least 10 years, remains to be seen.

Assuming the law is approved by individual states, by 2009 companies must convert 11 of 14 animal tests to animal alternatives (even though many of those alternatives are only non-animal in the sense that they don’t use whole animals).

Companies are given until 2013 to move to animal alternatives for the remaining three tests.

British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection’s spokesperson Wendy Higgins said of the vote,

This is potentially a historic moment, since to eradicate cosmetic animal testing from the European Union is quite an achievement. However, it is shameful that it has taken so long to do this. We are also disappointed we have a staggered sales ban.

Color me skeptical.

First, plenty of cosmetics and other finished products tested on animals will continue to be sold in Europe indefinitely since all existing compounds — most, if not all, of which have been extensively tested on animals — are grandfathered in.

Second, the 6 and 10 year respective deadlines is like balanced budget legislation in the United States — it simply delays the actual decision making to a point where politicians currently in office will likely not have to deal with it. As those deadlines approach, watch for high powered lobbying to extend the deadlines (and the cosmetics industry is already laying the groundwork for that).

Third, the ban faces a likely strong objection in the World Trade Organization that it represents an unfair barrier to trade.

This “ban” seems more like a classic political maneuver common to democracies where legislation that appears to take a strong position but in actuality essentially commits a government to no immediate action is offered up to appease a perceived politically vocal group.

Tune in around 2008 or so to see if the Europeans stick to their guns on this total ban on animal testing for cosmetics.


Law makeover closes animal test loopholes. Alastair Dalton and Nicola Smith, The Scotsman, January 13, 2003.

Cambridge Research Facility Hearings

Hearings were held this week on Cambridge University’s proposal to build a primate research facility in Girton, just outside Cambridge.

The proposal has been rejected twice before on grounds that the research center is certain to become a focal point for animal rights protests which could disrupt traffic and create other public safety hazards. Earlier this year a planning commission rejected the plans 17-4 after hearing from police about disruptions that activists might create.

That decision led to criticism from Prime Minister Tony Blair who said that the problems obtaining approval for the site threatened Great Britain’s standing as a leader in medical research.

The laboratory would hose macaque and marmoset monkeys used as part of brain-related research. Science minister Lord Sainsbury told BBC2’s Newsnight that the research center was of national importance,

I was asked by the local planning authority what my view was and whether it was a project of national importance. Clearly it is a project of national importance. It is doing major research in a key area of science. It is now up to the planning authority to give their view as to whether this is right from a planning point of view.

Cambridge University has defended the research center as absolutely vital,

Advances in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, asthma and strokes have all been made as a result of research with primates. Ongoing research with primates offer the hope of effective treatments for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and sight disorders, as well as the development of vaccines for malaria and Aids.

We understand that many people find the use of monkeys in medical research distressing. Research methods are continually evolving and while scientists and medical researchers aim to reduce work involving animals to a minimum, some of this work must continue if we are to make essential life-saving advances in medicine.

Animal rights activists, predictably, attacked such research as both cruel and unnecessary. Dan Lyons of Uncaged Campaigns told The Guardian (UK),

This research will cause suffering. The government tries to promote this centre as a scientific one, but it’s more to do with trying to create an impression of a business-friendly environment to attract more biotech and pharmaceutical companies. It’s a global business concern that’s driving this, rather than pure science.

Our concern is that the government is trying to present a commercial interest as a national interest. What’s ethically right is at odds with that commercial interest.

Regardless, the center is likely a done deal given Blair’s support and the fact that this time the decision rests solely with Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Wendy Higgins of the British Union for the Abolition of Animal Vivisection told The BBC,

It is a political decision that will be made, not one about planning. The prime minister has already made his position absolutely clear and now that John Prescott has decided to recover the final decision for himself, it is highly unlikely that he will go against Mr. Blair.

But, of course, the decision not to build it before was predicated largely on unruly animal rights activists. Surely, those who engage in hooliganism should not be rewarded for their behavior by allowing its possibility to prevent the construction of a research facility. Lets just hope the British government is committed to dealing with animal rights extremism that will inevitably be directed at the facility once it is built.


Cambridge argues for monkey research. The BBC, November 25, 2002.

Minister backs animal testing lab plans. Polly Curtis, The Guardian (UK), November 26, 2002.

Steve Coogan's Animal Rights Controversy

One of the silliest animal rights controversies in recent months has to be the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisectoin’s outrage over a planned new television show by comedian Steve Coogan.

Coogan’s new animated for the BBC series is “I Am Not an Animal.” As UK Newsquest Regional Press describes it,

The adult cartoon . . . will portray animals living a pampered life in a luxurious club class wing of a secret lab. The characters — a horse, cat, sparrow, monkey, cat and dog — are fed vintage wine and exquisite food and are blissfully unaware of the outside world. They are appalled when they are liberated by animal rights activists and forced to rough it in their natural surroundings.

The BBC is marketing “I Am Not an Animal” as a UK answer to “The Simpsons,” but BUAV says the concept isn’t funny.

BUAV claims the cartoon needs to remember that animals in laboratories endure “horrendous cruelty.” BUAV’s Wendy Higgins said,

We really hope these rumors are false because to portray the lives of lab animals as antyhing other than a living torture would not only be deeply crass but also irresponsible.

A spokesman for the show responded that the series, “. . . looks at anti-vivisection in a satirical way.” Of course there’s no other option, since most activists don’t even to take their own movement seriously (if they did, they wouldn’t keep spouting the same old distortions and lies).


Coogan in animal rights row. Barbara Davidson, UK Newsquest Regional Press, November 16, 2002.

European Union Agrees on Cosmetics Testing Ban — Well, Sort Of

The European Union this month finally reached agreement on a law that will ban animal testings on consumer products as well as the marketing and sale of products that are tested on animals outside of EU countries. But the ban has significant loopholes that make it unlikely that animal testing for such products will end anytime soon.

The agreement to amend the EU’s 1976 Cosmetics Directive defines 14 different types of tests currently performed on animals to determine the safety of consumer products. Of those 14 tests, 11 will be banned outright — well, at least they will be banned by 2009, assuming there are no later extensions to that date.

The three remaining tests are designed to measure toxicity and potential reproductive side effects of chemicals. Those tests don’t have any viable alternatives to using animals. So they are set to be banned in 2014, unless there are still no viable alternatives by then in which case those tests can be granted a 10 year extension. So maybe by 2024, the EU might be looking at banning all testing on animal products.

Don’t hold your breath, though, as even the animal rights groups pushing for the ban note that this is unlikely. Wendy Higgins of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection told The Guardian,

This has been an extremely long battle to convince Europe to finally stop killing animals in cosmetics test. But there are too many loopholes and there will never be a complete sales ban. As long as this is tied to non-animal testing alternatives it is doomed because there are only a handful available.

Meanwhile, the ban on products that are tested on animals outside of Europe is likely to face a strong challenge in the World Trade Organization. Great Britain, which already bans animal testing on consumer products in the UK, had long opposed these changes precisely because of that concern, but it and France finally withdrew their opposition this time around after the years-long delay was added to the agreement.


Consumer Policy: Conciliation agreement on animal test ban does not go down well. European Report, November 9, 2002.

New deal on animal testing. Ian Hernon, Liverpool Echo, November 9, 2002.

Activists hail EU’s ban on animal testing. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Calgary Herald, November 8, 2002.

Ban agreed on using animals to test cosmetics. Daily Post (Liverpool), November 8, 2002.

Cosmetics tested on animals to be banned: Campaigners give guarded welcome to EU deal. Andrew Osborn, The Guardian (London), November 8, 2002.

Compromise between EU governments, legislators paves way for possible 2009 ban on animal-tested cosmetics. Paul Ames, Associated Press, November 7, 2002.

Animal rights slam EU testing ban. Avirl Stephens, CNN, November 7, 2002.