Number of lab animals grows

October 26, 1995

The long decline in the number of animal experiments may have stopped, reflecting the rise in the breeding and testing of animals bred with harmful genetic defects and transgenic animals, writes Aisling Irwin.

The latest Home Office figures, released last week, show that the number of animal procedures in 1994 rose by 15,000 to 2,842,400. For the past 20 years there has been a steady decline in the numbers of animals used except in 1991.

One major trend in the statistics was the breeding of genetically altered animals. The use of transgenic animals increased by a third in 1994 to 184,000, after an 88 per cent increase in 1993.

Mark Matfield, director of the Research Defence Society, said: "Perhaps we should no longer expect the number of animals used to drop every year, but rather expect a trend towards a steady level.

"We have come to expect the numbers of animal procedures to fall year-on-year. However, other factors can increase the numbers of animals used. These include the development of important new research techniques like transgenic animals, shifts in consumer choice with new environmentally friendly product ingredients requiring safety testing and the need for new biological products like antibodies and vaccines."

The number of transgenic mice, used mainly to study inherited conditions, was up by 44,000. Myc Wriggulsford of the Research for Health Charities Group said that such animals were newly included in the statistics since 1990, even if no research was subsequently done on them after they were bred.

Les Ward, of Advocates for Animals, said that "we seem to be reaching a base line". He said he was concerned that the number of non-human primates used had increased by 170. This includes a 25 per cent increase in the use of old world primates, such as macaque monkeys.

He and the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection also criticised a 25 per cent increase in animal experiments for alcohol and tobacco and an increase in the Draize eye test.

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