Revealed: Ordinary laboratory animals are outnumbered by GM counterparts for first time

'These represent the next generation of tools to understand complex conditions' says one researcher

Science Editor

The number of genetically modified (GM) animals used in scientific research in Britain has exceeded the number of ordinary laboratory animals for the first time, according to official statistics that show a 9 per cent overall increase in the use of experimental animals last year.

Some 4,033,310 animals were used in scientific experiments started in 2012, an increase of 322,689, or 9 per cent over the previous year. There were 1.91 million scientific "procedures" used with GM animals in 2012 compared to 1.68.m procedures on normal animals.

The number of animal experiments increased by just over 8 per cent, to 4.11m procedures. The vast majority involved laboratory mice, with much of the increase due to the creation and breeding of GM animals, or "animals with harmful mutations", according to data released by the Home Office.

Using GM technology to alter the genes of laboratory mice, which can help to create animal "models" of human diseases, is largely to account for the significant increases in animal experiments over the past two decades, despite successive governments saying that they want to reduce research on animals.

"These represent the next generation of tools to understand complex conditions such as Parkinson's. The development of these models, which much more accurately reflect the condition, are vital for the development of new therapies," said Kieran Breen, director of research for the charity Parkinson's UK.

Dr Ted Bianco, Acting Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "This year's increase reflects the use of powerful techniques to help us model with greater accuracy human disease. In particular, the inclusion of genetically-modified mice, whose breeding alone counts as a procedure, is largely behind this increase, but will ultimately allow us to reduce the number of animals used."

However, Katy Taylor, head of science at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, said: "The sharp rise in the genetic modification of animals is especially disturbing. Such research raises strong ethical concerns because of the heavy welfare burden it imposes on the animals involved. Few animals show 'desired' characteristics, and so many animals who do not are killed even before any research can take place, while others die of severe and unrelated malformations caused by the genetic modification techniques themselves."

Nearly 380,000 more mice were used in animal procedures started in 2012 compared to 2011, an increase of 14 per cent. There were also significant increases in the number of sheep (5,157 or 14 per cent), goats (1,462 or 74 per cent), guinea pigs (1,203 or 10 per cent) and monkeys (545 or 22 per cent).

There were falls in the use of fish, amphibians, rabbits and pigs.

"The government must keep its promise to reduce the number of animals used in experiments. Refinement and reduction are not enough. We want animals out of laboratories and cutting-edge replacements in," said Ben Williamson of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions