More than 3.2 million experiments on animals, including dogs, cats and monkeys, were carried out last year – the highest total since the early 1990s.
Government figures showed it had presided over a steady rise in the number of animals used for research in the past 11 years, despite promises in opposition to cut the numbers. Ministers insisted the experiments were tightly controlled and essential for medical research but anti-vivisection groups accused the Government of reneging on promises to look for alternatives.
The number of experiments went up by 190,000 to 3,202,000 last year, a rise of 6 per cent. The main reason for the rise was the growing practice of breeding genetically modified mice and fish for tests in which disease-causing genes are inserted or removed. About 1.15 million such procedures took place last year, an increase of 114,000. The Home Office also recorded the use of monkeys on almost 4,000 occasions but the number of tests was down by 6 per cent.
Wendy Higgins, of the Dr Hadwen Trust, a charity that promotes humane medical research, said: "For a government that claims animals are only used when absolutely necessary, this is a shameful record indeed."
Meg Hillier, a Home Office minister, said: "Advances with non-animal test methods continue to be made but at present licensed animal use remains essential to develop improved healthcare technologies."