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Animal Testing Public Attitudes Shifting

Every two years, the UK government questions the British public to find out what people think of animal testing and to monitor if views have changed. Analysis of the 2018 survey statistics, conducted by pollsters Ipsos MORI, has just been published.

The analysis entitled ‘Public attitudes to animal research in 2018’ clearly shows that public attitudes are shifting with more interest in animal welfare than ever before.

  • Less tolerance of animal testing
  • More support of alternative methods
  • Lack of understanding of the government’s three R’s approach

Over 1,000 people aged 15+ from across the UK were interviewed in August and September 2018 in the ‘omnibus’ survey[2].

Read more to find out how you can TAKE ACTION!

Why it’s important

In July 2019, the UK government is scheduled to publish the latest numbers and types of animals used in experiments in the UK in 2018. We know that 3.72 million animals were tested on and killed in Britain in 2017 according to the Home Office. In 2017, tests were conducted on fish, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, rats, birds, cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, dogs, horses and primates in the UK. Due to the secrecy surrounding testing, we may never know the full extent of their suffering. 

With millions of animals still used for testing, and with evidence in this latest survey of a shift towards greater questioning of animal research, the time is long overdue to ditch outdated science. Interest in finding out more about alternatives to the use of animals in research has risen significantly over the past two years.

Whilst animal testing for cosmetics was banned in the UK back in 1998 and across the EU in 2013, testing on ingredients, such as some in household cleaning products, still takes place alongside testing for chemical and medical research. The separate EU REACH Directive has also muddied the water, as to what chemicals are still tested on animals.

For the compassionate consumer, it can be difficult to know what companies are pro-actively cruelty-free. Sadly, there are a number of brands who say they do not test on animals, but are in fact owned by larger companies, who do test other brands on animals! In fact, currently, if a company imports their cosmetic products into Chinese shops then the product is also subject to mandatory animal testing under Chinese law. Naturewatch Foundation’s Compassionate Shopping Guide helps provide guidance for cruelty-free shoppers. 

Key findings of the Ipsos MORI report

  • Two-thirds of the British public do not feel well-informed about the use of animals in research.
  • Animal welfare is becoming a bigger consideration for some members of the public and the link between animal research and human health appears weaker.
  • Interest in finding out more about work to find alternatives and improve the welfare of animals in research is high and has risen. Close to six in ten are interested in both aspects, and the proportion interested in work to find non-animal alternative testing methods has risen significantly since 2016.
  • The primary characteristic the public attribute to animal research organisations remains “secrecy”.
  • Public acceptability is contingent on the purpose and context of the research.
  • The type of animal is also important for public acceptability. Mice and rats – the most commonly-used animals in scientific research – are still seen as the most acceptable to use across different types of research.
  • Younger people, in particular, appear to be worried about the welfare of animals.
  • Public awareness of government work on the “three Rs” of animal research remains low. Less than one in ten know more than a little about government work to replace, reduce or refine the use of animals in scientific research. Similarly, nine in ten people have not heard of the National Centre for the three Rs.

Public awareness of the three Rs of animal research

Public awareness of government work to reduce, replace and refine the use of animals in research remains low. In every year of surveying the public, very few respondents feel they know either a fair amount or a great deal about the government’s work to:

a. Replace the use of animals with non-animal methods, such as computational models

b. Reduce the number of animals used in research, for example by improving the design of experiments or sharing the results

c. Refine the use of animals in research to improve animal welfare, for example by developing non-invasive methods and improving how the animals are kept

Table 2.1: Ipsos MORI | Public attitudes to animal research – 2018 report - Page 23

“I think that animals should not be used in any scientific research because of the importance I place on animal welfare”

Year Agree

Neither agree nor disagree


Don’t know

2018 38% 26% 36% 1%
2016 35% 26% 38% 1%
2014 31% 27% 40% 2%

What you can do to TAKE ACTION

For over 20 years, Naturewatch Foundation has regularly published a Compassionate Shopping Guide as we are strong believers in encouraging the public to lead a cruelty-free lifestyle through conscious, ethical and cruelty-free commerce. This includes rallying consumers to boycott powerful multinational companies that continue to profit from animal testing. We also pursue political lobbying to improve animal protection legislation in the UK, EU and in countries where we are working.

Get on the Waiting List for a copy of the 15th edition of the Compassionate Shopping Guide!
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Updated: June 2019

[2] An ‘omnibus’ survey asks questions across multiple subject areas.