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RSPCA highlight plight of 'hidden' animals used in science

New figures released for the first time today by the Home Office reveal an extra 1.81 million lab animals are bred and killed per year 

Press release: Thursday 8 November 2018

New figures released today for the first time reveal an extra 1.8million animals were used in research last year, providing a better picture of the true impact of science on animals


The Home Office has published the number of animals used in scientific procedures in the UK since 1986 but the new data reveal for the first time the number of additional animals used directly and indirectly in research. 


Previously published data showed that almost 4 million animals were used in scientific research in this country last year, but new figures show the total number was actually 1.81 million more than that. 


The latest stats take into account animals who may have been killed for experiments that use their organs and tissues, or they may have been bred and killed to maintain breeding colonies, without being used in scientific procedures. The RSPCA believes all of these animals are individuals, and their lives and welfare are important. We have long been calling for the publication of this information.


Dr Penny Hawkins, Head of Research Animals at the RSPCA said “The figures published today provide us with a far more accurate picture of the true impact of scientific research on individual animals. On top of the almost 4 million animals shown in previous published data, almost half as many animals again are listed in these figures. This means that the total number of animals used in science in the UK is well over five and a half million a year, which is a staggering figure”.


Dr Hawkins continues: “The experiences of these 1.81 million animals who are bred, and killed, as part of the scientific process, have for too long been hidden from view. In an era of increased openness and transparency, it is essential that these forgotten animals are recognised, and accounted for, every time data is released on the use of animals in science.


“With this level of impact on lab animals, it has never been more important that the perceived ‘necessity’ for using animals, the validity of these animals as experimental ‘models’, and the standards to which science is carried out and reported, are robustly scrutinised and challenged in every case.


“Some may argue that because these animals haven’t been used in actual scientific procedures, they have not suffered. But all have lost their lives and the Home Office itself recognises that even good laboratory conditions of housing and husbandry will compromise the animal’s well-being to some degree.”   

Notes to editors


1. The RSPCA works with those involved with the regulation, care and use of animals in research to develop and promote practical measures that will help to replace or avoid animal use, reduce the numbers used and refine experiments, housing and care to improve welfare and minimise suffering.

2. The publication ‘Additional statistics on breeding and genotyping of animals for scientific procedures, Great Britain 2017’ can be accessed at:

3. The Home Office Advice Note 02/2015 on ‘Use, keeping alive and re-use’ (2015) states that “Even good laboratory conditions of housing and husbandry will compromise the animal’s well-being to some degree”.  The document can be accessed here:


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