The Home Office has published its annual statistics on the number of animals used in UK research for 2020.
- Overall, 2.88 million procedures were carried out involving living animals. This is a 15% decrease from 2019, and the lowest number of procedures since 2004.
- Around 50% of all procedures were experimental procedures (1.44 million). The remaining half were for the creation and breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals (1.44 million).
- 92% of all procedures used mice, fish, or rats. These have been the most used species for a decade.
- Over half (53%) of experimental procedures were for the purpose of basic research, most commonly focusing on the immune system, the nervous system, and cancer
Why is animal research important?
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, including vaccines for COVID-19.
Last year, 758,000 experimental procedures were carried out for basic research purposes, to help us learn more about how living organisms and systems function. This represents 53% of all experimental procedures. The most common areas focused on in this research were: the immune system (20%), the nervous system (18%), and cancer (oncology; 14%).
Without animal 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.
The British Society for Immunology is signed up to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research. This means we are committed to being clear and transparent about when, how, and why animals are used in research, and that we will build this messaging into our communications. While we support the use of validated alternatives and believe research should always adhere to the principles of the '3Rs' to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in research, the use of animals remains essential for future immunological breakthroughs.
Read our position statement on the use of animals in scientific research.