18 July 2019
The Home Office has published its annual statistics on the numbers of animals used in research in the UK for 2018. In total, there were 3.52 million procedures carried out, which is a drop of 7% compared with 2017 figures and the lowest number reported since 2007. Half of these (1.8 million) were experimental procedures, with the mice most common animals used (60%) followed by fish (17%). The other half of procedures were for the creation/breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals (1.72 million), with mice the most common animal used (87%). You can find out more details about the 2018 figures in the Home Office report.
Research using animals has been a critical component of nearly every advance in immunological science in recent decades and has helped us to understand how the immune system works and develop new treatments against disease. Of the experimental procedures carried out in 2018, 56% of these involved basic research to allow us to expand our knowledge of how living organisms and systems function, with research involving the immune system making up 22% of this research type. Without usng animals in research, there would be no vaccination against many common diseases, no drugs available to treat infections, and no effective way to control diseases such as diabetes or HIV. Whilst alternatives should always be pursued and research should always adhere to the principles of the '3Rs' to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research, we believe that it remains essential for future scientific and medical breakthroughs.
The British Society for Immunology is signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research, meaning that we commit to be clear about when, how and why animals are used in research and that we will build this in to all our communications. You can read our full position statement on the use of animals in scientific research here.