On 16 July, the Home Office released statistics regarding the types of 4.11 million scientific procedures on other animals used in 2012, which again show an increase compared to 2011 figures. Despite the so-called commitment to the 3Rs (Replacement, Reduction and Refinement), the number of non-human animals used has steadily increased since 2001. The Vegan Society is deeply worried about this trend and the assumed effectiveness of animal research that exists among many scientists and parliamentarians.
Proponents of animal research claim that animal models are necessary. However, ample systematic reviews demonstrate the futility of animal use in toxicity testing and in research for cancer, hepatitis C and more. Even the use of chimpanzees (our closest relative) in biomedical research has not led to any significant preventive or therapeutic use for human medical progress (e.g. Bailey, 2008; Bettauer, 2010; Knight, 2007).
Living animals; not tools
Even if such research were effective, The Vegan Society believes the use of other animals in experiments is not justified. A mouse can suffer pain and distress, just as dogs or primates can feel pain. They are not tools. Animals have never given consent, and their interest in continuing life, reducing stress and harm and avoiding death cannot be trumped by human interests in pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge and solutions that could otherwise have been reached through the use of non-animal models and research techniques.
Global trends in animal use
Worldwide, the estimated number of animals used in research and procedures, including the 'creation' and breeding of vast numbers of genetically modified (GM) mice and rats and those carrying harmful mutations, exceeds well over 100 million. Great Britain is the third largest user of animals in procedures, after Japan (2) and the USA (1). Great Britain always prides itself on the stringent animal protection laws, however, if I were a guinea pig, I would much rather be in Malta where no such procedures take place.
UK 2012 figures versus 2011 figures, for scientific procedures using animals
• 8% overall increase
Equal to 317,200 additional procedures, a total of 4.11 million procedures
• 4.03 million animals used of which over 3 million were mice (some animals were used in multiple procedures)
• 1.91 million procedures carried out on GM animals
• Massive increase in the number of procedures on mice (+379,058; 14%)
• Increases in procedures involving sheep (+5,157; 14%); goats (+1,462; 746%); guinea pigs (+1,203; 10%) and non-human primates (+545; 22%)
• Increase in procedures for nutrition purposes by 79,300 (+425%) of which 92,984 procedures on fish
(Source: Home Office)
Roadmap to replacement
Of particular concern to The Vegan Society is the apparent lack of political commitment to implement a 'Roadmap to Replacement', and the wasted scarce research funds that could be used much more sustainably when invested in cruelty-free methods, like those encouraged by the Dr Hadwen Trust for Humane Research.
We call on the government to set deadlines for ending the use of all animals; and to increase the funding for the development of non-animal technologies and research.