Research using animals plays an invaluable and legally-mandated part in the drug development process. Animal research has been key to the development of numerous medical breakthroughs, including the development of vaccines for Malaria, Ebola and cervical cancer. As well as helping scientists understand human biology and the diseases which affect us, researchers are legally required to test the safety and efficacy of promising new medicines in animals before conducting clinical research in humans.

In the UK, research using animals is regulated via the Animals (scientific procedures) Act 1986, which is enforced via the Animals in Scientific Research Unit (ASRU) in the Home Office. Earlier this month, ASRU published their annual statistics on the number of animals being used in research. In 2016, 3,936,723 procedures were conducted on animals for medical, veterinary, scientific and environmental research in the UK. This is a decline of 5% when compared to the 2015 numbers.

Which species are most used?
In 2016, 3,867,528 animals were used in research. The most common types of animals used in procedures are mice (72.8%), fish (13.6%), rats (6.3%) and birds (3.9%). These four constitute 96.6 % of research procedures. Research was also conducted on frogs, guinea pigs, sheep, primates and other species.

Animal research stats

Infographic created by Understanding Animal Research


Who does experiments?
Universities and medical schools are the greatest users of research animals, conducting 49.2% of the total number of procedures. Commercial organisations are next, with 25.3%. Government departments, public bodies, NHS hospitals and public health labs conduct around 12.3% with the remaining 13:2% conducted by non-profits like charities.

What is the purpose of this research?

Of the 3,936,723 procedures conducted on animals last year, 51% (2.02 million) were experimental procedures and 49% (1.91 million) related to the creation/breeding of genetically altered animals2 not used in further experimental procedures. Regulatory testing accounted for 13.5% (531,509) of the procedures.

The BIA’s position on animal research

The BIA is a signatory of the Concordat on Openness on the Use of Animals in Research, an agreement supported by a range of organisations – including universities, companies, research funders and umbrella organisations – to commit to being open about the use of animals in research in the UK.

Concordate logo

The UK has among the highest standards in the world for the welfare of animals used in research, including a commitment to the 3Rs – the reduction, replacement and refinement of animals used in research. The BIA supports the aims of the Concordat, which will help the research community to communicate about the benefits, limitations and nature of animal research to ensure the public has the information they need to develop informed views on this topic.