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
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Tuesday 16 July 2013
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.
- 1 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 2 Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
- 3 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Noel Gallagher: I lost sh*tloads of money, a few million, didn’t tell my wife
Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
Saudi Arabia says it won't rule out building nuclear weapons
Germanwings plane crash: Andreas Lubitz 'had eyesight problems' and woke from nightmares 'screaming we’re going down'
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...
£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...
£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...