Belfast Telegraph

Animal experiments up 27% in decade with over 22,000 last year in Northern Ireland

By Claire Williamson

More than 22,000 research procedures were carried out on animals in Northern Ireland in a single year, it has emerged.

Rodents, pigs, sheep and cattle were among the animals used in experiments.

The number of procedures has risen by 27% in the last decade.

A Department of Health report shows that in total 22,214 procedures took place here in 2016. This represents 0.6% of animal research across the UK.

Most procedures were carried out on mice, which accounted for 18,287 (82.3%) of the total.

Next was pigs, sheep and cattle with 2,332 experiments (10.5%). Some 575 procedures involved rats (2.6%), while 1,020 procedures (4.6%) were carried out on "other animals". This included 155 cats and 73 dogs.

While there was a 1% fall in procedures between 2015 and 2016, animal use has risen over the past decade from 17,434 procedures in 2006 to 22,214 in 2016 - a rise of 27.4%.

This rise has mainly been in mice experiments which accounted for 18,287 procedures in 2016, compared with 8,468 in 2006, while the use of other species such as rats, birds and cattle has fallen.

The severity of all experiments are assessed as sub-threshold, mild, moderate, severe or non-recovery (where an animal is put under anaesthetic for surgery and then intentionally not woken up).

The number of non-recoveries was 251 and 762 were classed as severe.

The Department of Health said Northern Ireland regulates its animal research and compiles its statistics separately from the rest of the UK.

Every year, the Department of Health in Northern Ireland produces a report explaining what animals were used in different types of research over the year. The research is regulated under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, 1986.

In 2016, England, Scotland and Wales reported 3,936,729 procedures on animals, of which 92.7% were on mice, fish and rats.

Tom Holder from Understanding Animal Research said: "Animal research in Northern Ireland, like the rest of the UK, is heavily regulated. Research must be approved by an ethical committee, and can only go ahead where there are no viable alternatives and the potential benefits outweigh any potential harms to the animals.

"With animal research contributing towards 96 of the last 108 Nobel prizes, it is clear that it remains an important component of medical, veterinary and scientific development."

Belfast Telegraph

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