Top UK organisations release annual statistics for use of animals in research

The ten organisations in Great Britain that carry out the highest number of animal procedures - those used in medical, veterinary and scientific research - have today released their annual statistics to coincide with the publication of the official statistics by the Home Office.

They show that these ten organisations carried out 1.66 million procedures, 48.7% or nearly half of the 3.40 million procedures carried out in Great Britain in 2019. More than 99% of these 1.66 million procedures were carried out on rodents or fish.

The ten organisations are listed below alongside the total number of procedures that they carried out in 2019. Each organisation’s name links to its animal research webpage, which includes more detailed statistics. This is the fifth consecutive year organisations have come together to publicise their collective numbers and examples of their research.

A further breakdown of Cambridge’s numbers, including the number of procedures by species and detail of the levels of severity, can be found on itsá animal research pages.

All organisations are committed to the ’3Rs’ of replacement, reduction and refinement. This means avoiding or replacing the use of animals where possible; minimising the number of animals used per experiment and optimising the experience of the animals to improve animal welfare. However, as institutions expand and conduct more research, the total number of animals used can rise even if fewer animals are used per study.

All organisations listed are signatories to the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK , a commitment to be more open about the use of animals in scientific, medical and veterinary research in the UK. More than 120 organisations have signed the Concordat including UK universities, medical research charities, research funders, learned societies and commercial research organisations.

Wendy Jarrett, Chief Executive of Understanding Animal Research, which developed the Concordat on Openness, said: "Animal research is essential for the development of new drugs and vaccines for diseases like cancer, dementia, and COVID-19. Over the last six months we have witnessed researchers from across the world work tirelessly to develop new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, which it is hoped can prevent thousands of further deaths. Existing drugs, developed using animals, have also been found to be effective against the virus: Remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that was initially developed using monkeys to treat Ebola, is being used to treat severe cases of COVID-19, and dexamethasone, a steroid originally developed using animal research to treat rheumatoid arthritis, has been found to save the lives of some patients on ventilators. Research involving commonly used animals like rodents, and more unusual animals like llamas, alpacas, bats, and hamsters has also yielded important information on how COVID-19 can be treated."

Exercise is known to improve how the body manages blood sugar levels and thereby reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome in non-pregnant women. It also has positive effects prior to and during pregnancy, with beneficial outcomes for both mother and her child, preventing excessive gestational weight gain and the development of gestational diabetes, and the need for insulin use in women who have already developed gestational diabetes. However, little is known about the changes that exercise causes to the tissues of obese pregnant mothers.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge fed mice a sugary, high fat diet such that they become obese and then the obese mice were exercised. The mice exercised on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for at least a week before their pregnancy and then for 12.5 minutes a day until day 17 of the pregnancy (pregnancy lasts for around 20 days in mice).

Mice are a useful model for studying human disease as their biology and physiology have a number of important characteristics in common with those of humans, including showing metabolic changes with obesity/obesity-causing diets and in the female body during pregnancy.

The researchers found that the beneficial effects on metabolic health in obese mothers related to changes in how molecules and cells communicate in maternal tissues during pregnancy.

The key organs of the mother that were affected by exercise were:

white adipose tissue - the fatty tissue that stores lipids and can be found in different parts around the body, including beneath the skin and around internal organs;

The researchers say the findings reinforce the importance of an active lifestyle when planning pregnancy. In the UK, more than a half of all women of reproductive age and almost a third of pregnant women are overweight or obese. This is particularly concerning, as being overweight or obese during pregnancy increases the risk of complications in the mother, such as gestational diabetes, and predisposes both her and her infant to develop metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes in the years after pregnancy.

Further details

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