The Story Behind the Statistics
Today, the government has released its annual statistics on animal experiments. These are the dry figures which represent the imprisonment, suffering and deaths of legions of helpless animals in the UK’s 200 or so laboratories. There’s a lot of information in these figures, but none of it can convey the pain of a mouse genetically engineered to grow tumours, the pathetic confusion of a brain-damaged monkey who awakes from anaesthesia to find her arm paralysed or the terror of a pig facing repeated surgery. Sadly, the list of such examples goes on and on and on. But for what it’s worth, among the things you can learn from these statistics are the following:
- 3,541, 252 living animals had experiments started on them in 2009. All but a handful will now be dead.
- 90,000 animals were used in “lethal” toxicity tests (ie, tests in which the intention was to poison animals until some of them died).
- 18,000 procedures “interfered” with animals’ brains.
For the first time ever, less than half the scientific procedures in the UK used animals that were “genetically normal”: 42% used animals that were genetically manipulated and another 11% used conventionally bred animals with what’s called a “harmful genetic defect”.
For the first time since 2001, these numbers actually went down from the previous year, but after eight years of increases, a 1 per cent decrease means we shouldn’t celebrate yet.
One animal facing a tormented life in a laboratory is one too many: these figures are a national disgrace – an indictment of the last government’s policies, under which animal tests rose by a third between 2000 and 2009. The new government has said it will “work to reduce” the use of animals in scientific research. These are fine and welcome words, but the coalition will be judged by what it does, not by what it says.
PETA will be meeting with Lynne Featherstone, the new minister responsible for regulating animal experiments, in a few weeks, and we’re hoping to see a change in thinking at the Home Office – a demonstration of genuine commitment to putting this country at the forefront of humane, effective science. For real change to come, it’s got to happen everywhere in government – in its Business, Environment, Health, Education and even Defence departments. We’ll be pressing the case for animals and making very clear that we’ll be holding officials and ministers accountable. And when we do, we’ll have the miserable lives and unnecessary deaths of every one of these three and a half million animals in mind. I’ll update you on developments after the meeting.