Figures released by the Home Office show that production of genetically modified (GM) animals increased by six per cent, to 1.6 million in 2010.

Figures released by the Home Office show that production of genetically modified (GM) animals increased by six per cent, to 1.6 million in 2010.

The Home Office’s Statistics of Scientific Donald BroomProcedures on Living Animals 2010 document, released on July 13, compares data about procedures carried out in 2010 with that from 2009.
 
The report also revealed more than 3.7 million scientific procedures were started in Britain in 2010, an increase of 105,000 or 3%. The number of individual animals experimented on also increased by 3%, to 3,642,517.

The annual report indicates increases in numbers of procedures involving non-human primates (+10%), birds (+12%) and fish (+23%). However, reductions in procedures involving guinea pigs (-29%), cats (-32%), rabbits (-10%) and pigs (-15%) were also documented.

Donald Broom (pictured), professor of animal welfare at the University of Cambridge’s veterinary school, commented: “The upward trend of recent years in the production of GM mice has continued this year and, together with a 23 per cent increase in procedures on fish, has led to an overall increase of three per cent in licensed procedures. Hence there is no net replacement of the use of animals in research, even if there has been a drop in the numbers of guinea pigs, cats, rabbits and some other species.

“The substantial increase in our knowledge about the pain system and cognitive ability of fish should be leading to more care being taken in relation to laboratory procedures on fish. Work on GM animals mainly concerns animals that would only be used in the laboratory, but there is growing pressure for GM animals to be used in the wider world, for example for human food production.”

Speaking on trends within the annual figures and the ramifications of the UK regulations harmonising with the EU, James Yeates, chairman of the BVA’s ethics and welfare group, said: “It is important these figures do not show a worsening trend after the Government has implemented new EU controls. The new controls will represent a step forward for a number of EU member states, but in many areas they fall short of what we have had here in the UK for a number of years.
 
“Although the Government has been given the freedom to maintain current UK standards where they are higher, the signs are that they may largely seek just to transpose the new minimum baseline set by Europe. Such a move could worsen the welfare of thousands of laboratory animals in the UK, damage the quality of science undertaken, and weaken public confidence in the system of regulation.”

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