Animal research, how it is

Understanding Animal Research (UAR) is a British group. It exists ‘to provide all you want to know about animal research, whether you are a concerned member of the public or have a special interest.’

I like UAR’s factual style, a welcome counterpoint to some ‘animal rights’ campaigners who’d have us believe that terrible cruelty is done in British labs. Those campaigners would have us believe that the alleged cruelty is done for no good reason. No it isn’t! Here’s the law about lab animals in Britain. All the scientists I’ve worked with, who use lab animals, have done so with care for the animals’ welfare. Like all the farmers who keep animals and care for them.

In August this year, UAR showed us numbers about what had really been happening in Britain. They showed us the 2012 Animal Research Statistics from the Home Office.

Those Home Office numbers remind us that in 2012, ‘There were no tests carried out for cosmetic products and there were no experiments carried out on great apes (gorillas, orang-utans or chimpanzees) in line with UK bans on such testing. There were no animals used to test household products.’

The total number of ‘procedures’ done on animals in Britain in 2012 increased slightly from the year before. That was mostly because more genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered, GE) mice (Mus musculus) were bred for genetic research. UAR tells us why it’s useful to study mouse genes.

We in Britain get especially passionate about lab primates. UAR shows us a graph about primates in UK labs and says, ‘[T]here has been a general decline in the number of primates used since 1988, from over 6,000 down to 3,020. Primates remain important to research into neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, which are becoming increasingly prevalent in ageing developed countries. They are also used to test the safety and efficacy of new biological treatments, such as drugs to treat cancer and auto-immune diseases.’

I don’t often use this blog to tell my personal story, but I’ll make an exception here. I treat my chronic disease with a drug that was tested on primates. It works well enough to let me continue earning a fraction of my living expenses and to continue writing this blog. If you’ve never faced that kind of choice for yourself or a loved one, lucky you.

While we still need lab animals, UAR’s here to explain. UAR urges us to consider the ‘Three Rs’. That is, Replacement, Refinement and Reduction. That triple goal is promoted in Britain by the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC2Rs) and ‘in Europe and beyond’ by the Federation of European Laboratory Animal Science Associations (FELASA).

Wanton cruelty? Get real, people.


About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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2 Responses to Animal research, how it is

  1. mamathegeek says:

    Very well said! It’s a topic I tend to avoid bringing up with non-scientists or medical people because I know how emotive out can be. Yet I long to discuss the research I’ve been involved with and how animals are a critical part of it. Critical to the understanding of rare disease and tropical infection. Critical to the discovery, development and licensing of new drugs and anti microbials. But that’s not something the public generally want to discuss, unfortunately. :/

    • argylesock says:

      Thanks for the compliment. Indeed there are taboos about this topic but the anti-viv people aren’t shy. I’m all in favour of UAR and the other groups I link to in this post, telling the story in favour of lab animal work. My blog here gives me a chance to promote that viewpoint.

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