Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

UK is largest lab animal user in Europe

Posted: 6 February 2020. Updated: 6 February 2020


New figures on the use of animals in research reveal that the UK is the highest user of animals in the European Union.

The EU-wide figures, that were last published in 2011, include animal research statistics from all 28 member states.

Findings for the most recent year, 2017, include that:

  • 9,388,162 animals were used in EU labs, of which 1,839,079 were in the UK
  • The largest numbers of animals were used in the UK, followed by Germany, France and Spain
  • The most commonly used species of animals in EU labs were mice (5,707,471), zebra fish and other fish species (1,219,695) and rats (1,146,299)
  • The most uses of animals were for basic research, translational and applied research and regulatory use.
  • 8,235 primates were used in EU labs, of which 2,215 were in the UK. The use of genetically altered marmosets in Germany was also reported for the first time in the EU
  • 13,688 dogs and 1,879 cats were used in EU labs, 2,518 and 74 in the UK respectively
  • In addition to the 9.4 million animals used in research, 12.6 million additional animals were “bred, killed and not used in procedures in the EU in 2017"

Animals are an unreliable way to predict effects in people

Due to species differences, animals respond differently to substances such as drugs, and are therefore an unreliable way to predict effects in people – for example more than 90% of drugs that prove promising in animal trials fail in human ones.

Not naturally occurring in animals, many human diseases also need to be artificially created making them different from the human condition they attempt to mimic.

Use of modern non-animal methods needs to be accelerated

To counter these misleading tests, the UK Government and regulators must drive research toward modern methods that benefit people. Such methods include the use of databases, sophisticated analytical techniques, organ-on-a chip models, microdosing, computer simulations and modelling, and human tissue and 3D cell cultures.

The need to move away from using animals is acknowledged in EU law with the stated “final goal of full replacement of procedures on live animals for scientific and educational purposes” – a goal that is not stated in UK legislation, and therefore no longer applies now that the UK has left the EU.

Risk more animals could be used post-Brexit

There is also a risk that more animals could now be used for chemical testing in the UK. Under EU legislation, REACH, data sharing is mandatory to reduce costs and avoid unnecessary and duplication of tests. UK companies could lose data sharing privileges and may therefore have to repeat animal tests carried out in the EU.

Reviewing and replacing animal tests

A mechanism is in place under EU law to phase out animal tests. Known as ‘Thematic Review’, concrete plans for these periodic reviews of animal use have yet to be implemented. To help move this forward, ADI has set out proposals to show how specific uses of animals can be identified and replaced at an EU, national, and institutional level.

Although not enshrined in UK law, guidance to the national legislation concerning the use of animals in research states that the UK Government “propose to carry out our own thematic reviews” and that they “encourage the Commission to ensure that Europe-wide thematic reviews are carried out”. ADI is calling for this to be progressed at the earliest opportunity.

How you can help

  • Contact your MP and urge them to call on the UK Government to progress the adoption of advanced non-animal research methods and phase out animal tests through thematic review.
  • Make a donation to support our work to help animals in laboratories.
  • Keep up-to-date with our campaigns and actions. Sign up to receive our email alerts here.

© Animal Defenders International 2020