The latest figures released by the Home Office show a decrease in the overall use of animals in biomedical research in Great Britain’s public and private institutions.
These statistics for 2017 were presented to the UK Parliament under the terms of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 and demonstrate the continuing commitment of the British biomedical sector to openness and transparency about animal research, combined with an ongoing commitment to replace, reduce and refine the use of animals for every project, commonly known as the 3Rs.
The figures show that 3,789,373 experimental procedures were conducted in Great Britain  in 2017, 3.7% fewer than in 2016. Over 96% of the procedures on animals involved mice, fish, rats and birds while cats, dogs and non-human primates accounted for less than 0.2% of studies.
There was a significant fall in the number of procedures on dogs (3847 procedures) and on primates (2960 procedures), the lowest number for over 40 years for both species.
Half of all procedures were the creation or breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals that were not used in further experiments – these fell by 1%. Meanwhile the number of experimental procedures fell by 7%. Experimental procedures include basic and applied research, and regulatory studies aimed at making ensuring product safety.
Commenting on the figures, EARA Executive Director Kirk Leech said: “Behind each statistic is the story of basic research, of work towards combating disease and of improvements in medicine both for humans and animals.
“More and more institutions are openly publishing their own figures on their websites. This move towards greater transparency has been bolstered by the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK, which has been signed by 120 organisations since it launched in 2014. And now we are seeing transparency agreements reached across Europe, in countries such as Spain and Portugal.”
No animals were used for testing cosmetics or their ingredients as this has been illegal in the UK since 1998.
Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, Senior Group Leader at The Francis Crick Institute, said: “GA animals are extremely valuable for exploring basic mechanisms of biology, increased understanding of which can lead to better treatments or cures for diseases and for better welfare and quality of life for humans and animals. Once generated, stocks of GA animals need to be maintained by breeding.
“Despite breeding being of no harm for the animals, indeed it is a normal activity that they likely enjoy, this has to be counted as a procedure under the Act. This greatly inflates the number of GA animals that appear in the annual stats, with often very few of them being used for any additional, perhaps invasive procedure.”