Top Ten UK organisations for animal research announced

Image: Tru Katsande

Understanding Animal Research (UAR), which promotes openness about animal research, has released a list of the ten organisations in Great Britain that carry out the highest number of animal procedures in medical, veterinary and scientific research.

These statistics are freely available on the organisations’ websites as part of their ongoing commitment to transparency and openness around the use of animals in research.

The figures coincide with the publication of the national Home Office statistics for animals used in research in 2019.

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 animal research webpage includes more detailed statistics. This is the fifth consecutive year organisations have come together to publicise their collective numbers and examples of their research.

The Francis Crick Institute 258,557

Medical Research Council 241,577

University of Oxford 229,163

University of Edinburgh 198,517

UCL 186,424

King’s College London 131,999**

University of Glasgow 118,139

University of Cambridge 114,640

University of Manchester 97,506

Imperial College London 80,799

TOTAL 1,657,321

To accompany the Top Ten list, UAR has also produced a list of 42 organisations in the UK that have shared their own statistics on the animal research they carried out in 2019.

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.”

Jan-Bas Prins, director of the Crick’s Biological Research Facility, said: “At the Crick our researchers are working hard to understand a wide range of devastating diseases. While we use alternatives to animal research wherever possible, these diseases are complex, frequently interacting with and affecting multiple parts of the body. Research into what causes different diseases and finding new ways to prevent and treat them often requires us to work with animals.”

Frances Rawle, Director of Policy, Ethics and Governance at the Medical Research Council, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of research using animals in understanding the biology of diseases and developing new treatments and vaccines. The MRC is committed to ensuring that this research is carried out to the highest possible levels of animal welfare and to replacing, refining and reducing the use of animals in research wherever possible.”

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