National Anti-vivisection Society


National Antivisection Society

NAVS issues warning that over next two years over 10 million animals could die in laboratories

Posted: 25 July 2006

The National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), the oldest organisation of its kind in the world, has warned today that in the next two years over 10 million animals could soon be dying in UK laboratories annually.

Jan Creamer, NAVS chief executive, comments: “The Home Office figures this week of almost 2.9 million animal experiments carried out in 2005 with the number continuing to rise. Evidence shows that for each recorded use of an animal in a laboratory, a further two to three animals have been killed after a miserable short life, simply because they are surplus to requirements, so already an estimated nine million animals are dying in UK laboratories each year.”

NAVS has campaigned for years to promote sophisticated alternatives to the use of animals in research to draw attention to the human exploitation of the other species. There is ample evidence that good scientific research does not exploit animals. Alternative research using sophisticated techniques which concentrate on human data are the way forward for science and medicine and NAVS is pushing the replacement agenda.

Jan Creamer adds: “Many of NAVS public surveys and experience of what the public generally think shows that they are against the use of animals in research, but they do want safe products. And they can have both - you can bring in sophisticated techniques, the advanced technology – and people can have a replacement for animal tests as well as safe products. It is good for business as well.”

A MORI Poll in February 2005 recorded that 81% of people agreed that there needs to be more research into alternatives to animal experimentation and 76% could only accept animal experimentation with no unnecessary suffering to animals.

Alternatives to animal testing
According to NAVS, these range from using a combination of computer technology with tissue cell and organ culture, to very advanced techniques such as PBBK which is a system where you can combine a whole range of information (PBBK is physiologically based biokinetics models).

Known to be some of the most exciting alternatives to animal tests, physio-chemical, physio-logical and invitro data can be integrated in biokinetics. Advanced techniques are about using combinations of systems and information – for example, human data, data already obtained about the structure of substances and their effect, and human tissues. This is increasingly seen as the future for scientific research and medicine.

The recent case in the UK when an experimental drug (TGN1412) was given to human volunteers in trials and caused terrible side effects highlighted the use of alternatives. Had they used advanced technology – a system called micro-dosing using accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) – a unit where you can analyse tiny doses of drugs given to humans which can give you the answers that you need, there would have been no ill effect. If they had used that, both the animals and the humans would have been saved. It transpired that the primates given that drug had received doses 500 times stronger than the human doses – so that is an extreme case of species variation that could have been avoided.

Other countries such as Japan and the USA are investing in sophisticated advanced technology while in the UK we are still building primate labs - as the people making the decisions about what should be built, have spent their careers using animals and that is what they are used to. It is very hard to retrain some of these people that are stuck in this mindset. In fact, for alternative techniques, there is an initial investment but in the long run it is cheaper and you get better results and better products. And the majority of the money that is spent in animal research is spent in feeding, housing and caging and caring for the animals, not necessarily the research.

Jan Creamer added, “Government policy should reflect what the British public want – an end to unnecessary suffering to animals and more research into the latest techniques for human testing”.

Home Office Statistics for 2005 - the main points

  • The number of experiments carried out in 2005 was almost 2.9 million, well over 40,000 more than in 2004 and the highest since 1992.
  • Consequently, some 2.81 million animals were used, 34,200 more than in 2004
  • That includes a total 12,800 dogs, cats and non-human primates
  • In total, 3,120 non human primates were used, up 12% on the year before
  • Many more of these were Old World Monkeys, characterised among other things by their high intelligence. There was a 17% rise in the use of such monkeys as opposed to New World Monkeys
  • 288,100, or about 10%, of all the animals used in 2005 had been purposely bred to develop harmful genetic mutations – 20,000 more than the previous year
  • 60% of the animals used received no anaesthetic whatsoever. (no change on last year)
  • Over 400,000 of the experiments were toxicity tests (this is actually ever so slightly down on last year)
  • 13% per cent of all tests in 2005 did not conform to legal or regulatory requirements. (cf 14% last year)
  • The animals required for around 470,000 separate experiments were acquired from outside the UK
  • 73% of all the non-human primates used in experiments in 2005 came from sources outside the UK
  • The number of experiments using so-called ‘schedule 2’ listed animals (including cats, dogs, and non-human primates) that had been obtained from outside the EU, rose by 1,800 compared with 2004
  • Of all the Schedule 2 listed animals imported from outside the UK, almost a half had harmful mutations or were otherwise genetically modified. Often, animals with such harmful mutations or genetic modifications are not available in the UK.

1- Schedule 2 animals are: mouse, rat, guinea pig, hamster, gerbil, rabbit, cat, dog, ferret, non-human primate, pigs (if genetically modified), sheep (if genetically modified) and quail ( Coturnix coturnix) .

____________________________ENDS For each recorded use of an animal in a laboratory, a further two to three animals have been killed after a miserable short life, simply because they are surplus to requirements.

The NAVS spends £300,000 a year on grants to scientists conducting non-animal research, and urges the Government to focus on replacements for animal tests, for the sake of both people and animals.

World Lab Animal Week is commemorated all over the world each year around 24 April and was founded by NAVS; the day is registered with the United Nations.

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