Local groups report increase in animal testing at the University of Liverpool and call on the institution to end animal experiments. Liverpool march cancelled but online protests to go ahead for World Day for Animals in Laboratories 24th April.
By Katy Brown
Merseyside Animal Rights has obtained information indicating that the University of Liverpool conducted 25,346 experiments on animals in 2019, with a further 4,337 bred who were either killed, or died, without being experimented on. The local campaign group obtained the information via a freedom of information request. The overall figure for the previous year was 23,612. Merseyside Animal Rights, Team Tino Animal Rights and Vivisection Exposed who were due to organise a march in Liverpool on Saturday, say they are shocked and disappointed that the figures have increased yet again, despite the university’s claim that it is committed to reducing the numbers of animals it uses in research.
Of the animals who were subjected to these procedures, 9,670 were used in ‘basic research’ – what could also be termed ‘scientific curiosity’, 8,273 were used in the breeding/maintenance of colonies of established genetically altered animals, not used in other procedures, 72 were used for education or training purposes. 7,331 were used in applied research, 653 of these were for animal disease and disorders and 2,407 for ‘animal welfare’; the remaining 4,271 of these were used for studying human diseases and 234 for disease diagnosis.
898 of these procedures inflicted severe pain on the animals used, 10458 inflicted moderate pain, 8802 inflicted mild pain, 5253 were described as ‘sub-threshold’ indicating they didn’t inflict any noticeable pain on the animal while 235 led to ‘non-recovery’ meaning they were performed under general anaesthetic and from which the animal did not recover consciousness.
Of the animals used the vast majority were mice with 21,694 being experimented on, followed by 2407 cows, 653 domestic fowl, 179 zebra fish, 311 rats, 62 rabbits and 40 sheep, each and every one a sentient creature with the ability to feel pain say the groups. The university bred 110 gerbils but it these don’t appear in the figures for procedures.
The groups, Merseyside Animal Rights, Team Tino Animal Rights and Vivisection Exposed which are all Liverpool based, are releasing the figures to coincide with World Day for Animals In Laboratories, which falls on the 24th of April each year, and is the annual day for remembering the plight of animals in laboratories.
The groups were expecting to host the World Day for Animals In Laboratories march here in Liverpool this coming Saturday. The march is an annual national event which moves from city to city, but Liverpool’s hosting of the event has had to been postponed until next year due to the current Covid 19 crisis.
The groups report that the figures they have obtained show a steady increase since 2014 when they first started recording them
They say that the University of Liverpool claims to embrace the principles of reduction, refinement and replacement with regards to animal testing, and to be committed to the development of alternative methods, but that the figures show that the university is clearly not, in practice, adopting any of these three principles, known as ´the 3Rs´. The group says “If the university was genuinely interested in reduction, its figures for animals used would be reducing, not increasing. In terms of refinement, which refers in part to how much pain is inflicted on animals, the numbers of experiments inflicting severe pain have also increased, from 690 the previous year, clearly contradicting any meaningful commitment to refinement. And as for replacement, again, if the university was serious about replacing animals in research we would see its figures for animal experiments going down not up.
The group says that the use of non-human animals as models for both toxicity testing and human disease research is increasingly being called into question. Differences between species means that the results delivered are often inaccurate and frequently dangerous. Nine out of every ten new drugs developed and passed as safe and effective in animals never lead to any human benefit due to ineffectiveness or unexpected toxicity when trialled in people. The use of non-human animals is actually delaying medical progress as well as posing a safety threat to those who volunteer for drugs trials.
Positively, in recent years, the group says there has been a shift in focus towards the replacement aspect of the 3Rs with calls from within the scientific community to accelerate the replacement of animals in research and testing with more human relevant alternatives on both scientific and ethical grounds. Unfortunately, the University of Liverpool seems determined – despite its claims to the contrary – to remain bound to the outdated animal model for research. Merseyside Animal Rights was extremely disappointed to learn that the figures for animal experiments have gone up, rather than down, in the last year.
Sarah Austin who campaigns with Merseyside Animal Rights said ‘We were disappointed not to be able to hold the World Day for Lab Animals protest march this year, but we still need to share this knowledge with the public. People are so shocked when they hear that this is happening on their doorstep, so we feel we have a responsibility to let people know. We have talked to potential students so they can make informed choices about where they want to study and spend their £11,000 university fees. Liverpool is a fantastic place to live and work, and we want our universities to lead the way in change rather than staying stuck in rigid outdated research methods which are both unscientific and cruel’.