Create an account

Opening an account with Naturewatch allows you to buy items from our online shop.

Member Type:

Join the Naturewatch mailing list
Be kept informed of events, campaigns and news.
We will never send you spam or share your details.

Not got an account?   Register here Login
Return to login Forgot password?

How many animals suffered for science last year?

On July 15th, the Home Office released its ‘Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals, Great Britain’ for 2020. Reviewing the report made grim reading.

In Great Britain last year, 2,883,310 scientific procedures were performed using living animals.

Those procedures included:

  • 2,066,635 on mice
  • 311,055 on zebrafish
  • 208,610 on rats
  • 50,954 on sheep
  • 10,790 on horses and other equids
  • 11,336 on rabbits
  • 6,057 on Guinea pigs
  • 3,320 on pigs
  • 4,340 on dogs, including 4,270 beagles

The number of procedures includes 1.4 million experimental procedures and 1.4 million relating to the creation and breeding of genetically altered (GA) animals. (GA animals are used to introduce a new characteristic or change a feature, such as the disease resistance of an animal.)

Every year, some animals are used more than once.

In 2020, 2,813,887 animals were used in scientific procedures in Great Britain.

But the innocent animals subjected to scientific procedures in laboratories around the country are more than just a number.

In May, the UK Government introduced legislation into Parliament to formally recognise animals as sentient beings. As a sentient being, it is recognised that animals can experience feelings such as joy, pleasure... and pain.

Since 2014, the degrees of pain, distress, suffering or lasting harm felt by animals in scientific procedures have also been recorded in the Home Office report.

The levels include mild (such as an MRI scan with appropriate sedation or taking a blood sample) to severe (like inescapable electric shock treatments and toxicity testing where, sadly, death is the final stage).

The Home Office report shows that, across all species, ‘only’ 3% of scientific procedures involved severe suffering in 2020. That might be true… but how many is too many (over 85,000 animals)?

All establishments wishing to conduct regulated procedures on living animals must be licensed. In 2020, the majority of project licences (81%) were held by those conducting research at universities or medical schools.

Whilst there is a decrease of 15% from last year, it may be partly explained by the two national coronavirus pandemic lockdowns during 2020.

Lockdowns may have affected the activity at establishments due to the strict limits on daily life and restrictions on travelling to workplaces.

How much suffering would have been prevented if the Government had followed up on its previous promises of ending animal testing in the UK?

Words mean nothing without action!

  • In 2010, the UK Government committed to the replacement, reduction, and refinement (3Rs) of the use of animals in research. 
  • In 2014, it set out its plan ‘Working to reduce the use of animals in scientific research’.
  • In 2015, it published a ‘Delivery Report’ to assess progress against the plan, followed by a roadmap in the UK up until 2030.

There has been no further publicly available update to the roadmap since 2015.

With every year that passes, our country is missing countless opportunities to end enormous suffering and save millions of lives.

Let’s look to the future…

The UK could be a world leader in researching and implementing non-animal methods.

Instead, in 2019, the most recent report by the European Commission on the use of animals in science found that we are the biggest user of animals for experimental purposes in Europe, followed by Germany and France.

In June 2021, the Prime Minister announced his desire to make the UK a ‘science superpower’, calling science ‘the great liberator’. 

We want future plans to include liberating millions of laboratory animals from a lifetime of captivity, torment and death.

What are we doing?

  • With Government plans recently published, increasing government spending to £22 billion for "scientific research of all kinds", we are asking for funding to be directed to non-animal technologies – they are more humane and are often quicker and cheaper than methods using animals.
  • The 3Rs were first mentioned decades ago in the 1950s! We want the Government to back up its promises by finally publishing an end date for animal testing in the UK.
  • We are asking for Section 24 to be amended – the so-called ‘Secrecy Clause’. It’s an outdated clause of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which makes it a criminal offence to disclose the full details of animal experiments. 

YOU can help!

  • If you haven’t already done so, support our e-mail campaign asking two Government Ministers to finally call time on animal testing.
  • Share our slideshow (below) with family and friends on social media, using the hashtags #CallTimeOnAnimalTesting #DyingForADeadline and #Suffering4Science.
  • If you don’t receive our e-newsletter, sign up today – we’ll send you occasional updates on any developments and how you can help.
  • In 2020, 301 experimental procedures involved the testing of household product ingredients. Our Compassionate Shopping Guide is now online and only endorses companies that don't benefit from animal testing. Why not contact your favourite brand and ask them to apply for endorsement?
  • Please make a donation to support our work – thank you!

We are determined to end animal testing in the UK – but is the Government? Time will tell.


July 15th 2021