Numbers Are Lives (2018)
An Animal Rights Article from


Animal Justice Project
August 2018

New figures reveal decrease in animal experiments but still staggering numbers and many carried out inside secretive university labs.

British vivisection

New figures reveal decrease in animal experiments but still staggering numbers and many carried out inside secretive university labs!

white rat01

Today, numbers of experiments on rodents, rabbits, ferret, dogs and other animals have been published by the Home Office. The figures come amid new research questioning the scientific rigour of animal experimentation and reveal half of experiments are carried out at university campuses. Shockingly, once again over half of animal experiments in Britain are curiosity-driven or rather, ‘basic’ research.

Animal Justice Project today is releasing information on a failure by top universities to provide the public with key information via the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002. We urge you to support our growing ‘Campus Without Cruelty’ campaign to stamp out inhumane research.

Our probe into transparency within Britain’s so-called ‘leading universities’ shows that the largest users of animals in Britain are refusing to disclose basic information about animal research within their laboratories.

According to the Home Office, in 2017 the UK completed 3.7 million procedures on living animals – a decrease from the 3.94 carried out the year before.

Here is some key information from the report, which can be viewed HERE:

  • Five percent of experiments were classified as ‘severe’ including 13 on primates, 15 on dogs, 78,478 on mice, 3,134 on rats, 152 on rabbits, 1 on cats and 5 on pigs
  • 198 experiments were carried out on cats, 10,362 on rabbits, 10,600 on horses, 3,847 on dogs and 2,960 on primates. Of the primates used, 1,962 were born in Asia and Africa
  • Over a million mice were used
  • 1,043,654 experiments, or 55 percent were “curiosity-driven” – in other words need have no direct benefit for humans
  • 505,000 experiments were for “regulatory use” – including toxicity studies (2,245 on dogs)
  • The majority of experimental procedures involving rats (62 percent) were for regulatory testing
  • 450 experimental procedures (regulatory (toxicity) testing for industrial chemicals legislation) which involved the testing of household product ingredients
  • Universities accounted for the majority of project licences (78 percent), and the largest proportion of procedures (50 percent)

There is growing evidence that animal experiments are not providing results that are reliably predictive of the human condition. Over the past few years, researchers have repeatedly shown that many animal studies lack scientific rigor; they are often prone to biases, for instance, and are sloppily reported in scientific journals. In 2018, scientists cite hundreds of biomedical studies from journals including Nature, Science, and the Journal of the American Medical Association to show animal modelling is ineffective, misleading to scientists, unable to prevent the development of dangerous drugs, and prone to prevent the development of useful drugs. Legislation still requires animal testing prior to human testing even though the pharmaceutical sector has better options that were unavailable when animal modelling was first mandated. The legislation‐mandated reliance on animal test results in early stages of the drug development process leads to a mere 10 percent success rate for new drugs entering human clinical trials.

Last year, the top ten users of animals in Britain boasted proudly about their openness with regards to animal research. Animal Justice Project however questions their so-called commitment to greater openness about animal research. Half of these universities (including the previous top three) have refused to provide numbers and species of animals used – Oxford University, Edinburgh University, University College London (UCL), Cambridge University and Imperial College London. Each of these universities appear in the ‘QS World University Ranking Top 100’.

University of Oxford – notoriously the UK’s largest user of animals – experimented on a staggering 236,429 animals last year, including over 229,000 mice and seven non-human primates. Fifty four are housed at Oxford’s laboratories. Prior to releasing the data on its website, this information was denied to Animal Justice Project when asked, despite the university being a signatory to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research – ‘a commitment to be more open about the use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research in the UK’. The university applied exemption in section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act 200, stating that it would take too long to gather the data.

Edinburgh University – the UK’s second largest user of animals and a Concordat signatory – experimented on 225,366 animals in 2017. Prior to the university releasing the data on its website, this university refused to disclose information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 – applying instead exemption from disclosure under section 27(1) and the ‘public interest test’: ‘The University has concluded that in this case the public interest in the application of the exemption outweighs the public interest in premature disclosure’.

University College London (UCL) – the UK’s third largest user of animals – experimented on 203,744 animals in 2016 but no figures are known for 2017 and again the university refused to answer the Freedom of Information request, stating that: ‘Given that there are firm plans in place for the publication of the data we consider it reasonable to withhold this from disclosure under the FOI regime at this current time’. Again, this university is a Concordat signatory.

Cambridge University, were, in 2016, in the top ten users, using 155,394 animals that year. The university, this year, refused to answer Animal Justice Project’s Freedom of Information request, stating that they are ‘exempt under section 22(1) of the Act’ and that ‘the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information’. Cambridge is a Concordat signatory.

Imperial College London – another signatory to the Concordat – used 101,369 animals in 2016, but no figures are known for 2017 as again the university refused to answer a Freedom of Information request, stating that information is exempt if ‘the information is held by the public authority with a view to its publication, by the authority or any other person, at some future date’ . This is ironic considering they have stated that: ‘We will enhance our communications with the media and the public about our research using animals’.

Bristol University – a university not in the top users but one that was exposed by Animal Justice Project last year for using cats – refused to answer Freedom of Information requests for at least four years, claiming that it did not keep a central record of animal experimentation licences. In 2014, the university stated publicly that it would implement a system yet the figures were not announced until 2017 after continuous pressure from campaigners. Bristol University is once again failing to disclose information. Animal Justice Project contacted the university in January 2018 and again in March. Apparently staff absence meant the request could not be dealt with and the organisation was assured it would receive the information in a ‘few days’. Bristol University continues to avoid answers with regards to the number and types of animals it uses in their research.

The numbers revealed by Animal Justice Project in their university probe are shocking. Kings College London (KCL) – in the top ten users – experimented on 139,679 animals last year and their Freedom of Information request revealed that, in one 2018 month (March) alone, over 11,000 animals were used, including over 8,000 mice. The university has the capacity to hold up to 40,000 of these animals. From January 2018 – March 2018, the university used 25,049 mice, 1,406 rats, one rabbit, 23 guinea pigs, 8,315 fish, and four amphibians. In 2018 – from January to March – 34,000 animals have been used.

Two universities contacted explicitly stated concern for the safety of their staff. UCL stated: ‘individuals should be protected in threats to their safety’ and that ‘public interest arguments do not outweigh prejudice that would occur from disclosure to the safety of researchers’. This university went further, stating that information ‘in the hands of animal rights extremists’ would ‘likely’ distort or manipulate so as to incite hatred and intimidate members of UCL.

University of Glasgow refused to provide any meeting minutes as ‘disclosure of the requested information would, or would be likely to, directly or indirectly endanger the safety and wellbeing of its staff’. This university also stated that ‘The University considers that there is a real concern that if the information were to be released this could lead, either at the present time or at some future date, to it being used in a manner that would endanger the safety and wellbeing of such individuals’.

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