Shocking Speciesism in UK Labs: 3.52 Million Procedures Using Animals in 2018

For Immediate Release:

18 July 2019


Sascha Camilli +44 (0) 20 7923 6244; [email protected]


PETA Petitions the Government to Modernise and to Move Away From Experiments on Animals

London – Figures published by the Home Office today reveal that 3.52 million procedures were conducted on animals in the UK in 2018 alone. Experiments using mice, rats, and fish – who are used principally because they’re cheap, expendable, easy to handle, and carry less “sentimental value” compared to other species – account for a staggering 93% of all procedures using animals. PETA is calling on the government to commit to phasing out all experiments on all animals and redirecting resources away from these unreliable tests. Investing in superior, non-animal methods will benefit humans, animals, and the future of science in the UK.

Experimenting on animals is not only morally bankrupt but also scientifically defunct. A review published in The BMJ found that “even the most promising findings from animal research often fail in human trials and are rarely adopted into clinical practice”.1 To find effective treatments and cures for human diseases, the government must end experimentation on animals and shift its focus to innovative, human-relevant methods.

“These staggering figures paint a grim picture of an outdated system, in which experimenters repeatedly drug, poison, surgically mutilate, and ultimately kill certain animals because they’ve always done things this way,” says PETA Science Policy Adviser Dr Julia Baines. “Species such as mice, rats, and fish are afforded less legal protection than the meagre ones afforded cats, dogs, horses, and primates – despite having the same capacity to suffer – so experiments in which they’re used receive even less oversight. The UK government has a moral obligation to protect animals and advance human health by switching from animal experiments to today’s technology such as organs-on-chips.”

PETA – whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to experiment on” – opposes speciesism, which is the worldview that other species are commodities to use as we please, and which University of Oxford researchers2 recently likened to prejudicial attitudes such as racism, sexism, and homophobia. The group notes that the UK law regulating the use of animals in experiments, The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986, is inherently unethical and speciesist. The Act fails to protect animals or replicate the European Union goal of ultimately replacing all animal experiments. Instead, it serves to protect experimenters from prosecution so long as the right paperwork is completed.

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  • The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986 (ASPA), is often touted as being among the tightest regulations in the world for protecting animals used in experiments, but there is prejudice in its regulation of different species, as seen in the following examples:
    1. All experiments on great apes are banned (Section 5C (5)) as is the use of stray animals of domesticated species (Schedule 2C, conditions in licences), yet other primate species, and dogs, cats, horses, and other domesticated animals bred specifically for use in experiments may be used.
    2. Certain species (cats, dogs, horses, primates, and endangered species) are given special added protection over other species, meaning that they can only be used if no other animal will suffice (Schedule 2B(4). For experiments involving primates, a retrospective evaluation of the work must be carried out (Section 5B(7)(a).
    3. If these “specially protected species” are to be used in procedures categorised as having the potential to cause severe pain, distress, or lasting harm, then the project licence applications may be referred to a special committee (the Animals in Science Committee), thus giving an additional layer of review (Section 9(1).
    4. Apart from cephalopods, invertebrates, including crustaceans, are not even considered within the law, and there are no limitations on what can be done to them.
  • Recital 10 of the European Union Directive 2010/63/EU on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes states that “this Directive represents an important step towards achieving the final goal of full replacement of procedures on live animals for scientific and educational purposes”The Recitals set out the overarching reasons for the enacting terms to be fixed in national legislation and are important in providing context and setting objectives. However, transposition of the Recitals into national legislation was not legally mandated, and consequently, they were not included in the UK’s Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986, amendment regulations 2012. Thus, there is no UK commitment ultimately to replace all procedures using animals.
  • A 2014 review published in The BMJ found that “even the most promising findings from animal-based research often fail in human trials and are rarely adopted into clinical practice. For example, one study found that fewer than 10 percent of highly promising basic science discoveries enter routine clinical use within 20 years.”1


1 Pound P, Bracken M. Is animal research sufficiently evidence based to be a cornerstone of biomedical research? BMJ. 2014; 348

2 Caviola L, Everett JAC, Faber NS. The Moral Standing of Animals: Towards a Psychology of Speciesism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2018;