Despite years of protest, animal research continues at an alarming rate in the UK. The Daily Mail reports that 1.3 million animals were killed for medical and veterinary research just last year at a number of UK university labs.

The 1.3 million breaks down as follows:

  • 978,259 mice
  • 278,586 fish
  • 51,218 rats
  • 4,246 birds
  • 2,953 chickens
  • 2,040 reptiles
  • 124 monkeys
  • 10 dogs
  • 5 emus
  • 2 cats

Edinburgh University in Scotland tops the list with the highest death rate, at 226,341 animals killed. England’s prestigious universities Oxford and Cambridge come in next with 202,203 and 135,086 dead animals respectively, reports the BBC.

‘The details of some (university) research will not only surprise but disgust. Tests have involved forcing rodents to inhale diesel fumes to investigate their harmful effects and deliberately inflicting high levels of stress on baby animals to see if having a stressful childhood causes mental health issues in adulthood,” said Michelle Thew, CEO of The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV) to the Daily Mail.

“Many members of the public are under the illusion that all animal experimentation is vital for human health benefits, whereas this couldn’t be further from the truth,” added Thew.

The death figures were acquired through Freedom of Information Act requests that were submitted to 132 UK universities and research institutes. So far, 44 universities have replied, which makes the 1.3 million death toll even more troubling, as the number could certainly be much higher.

Naturally, these research institutions and their supporters have claimed that animal testing still remains necessary.

An Edinburgh University spokesperson told the BBC that the university “uses animals in research programs only when their use is justified on scientific, ethical and legal grounds, and when no alternatives are available.”

And Sharmila Nebhrajani, chief executive of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said to the Daily Mail, “Charities fund projects using animals only when they are satisfied that there is no possible alternative. That the scientific benefit that will come from the project will outweigh the impact of the experiment on animals and that all animals in the lab are treated as respectfully and humanely as possible.”

Perhaps animals are not thrown around or beaten in labs, but animal testing can hardly be deemed “respectful,” “humane,” or “ethical.” By its very nature, it’s invasive, and takes advantage of animals who are unable to have a say in the matter.

Opinions may range on the issue of animal experimentation, yet it is becoming increasingly difficult to support the use of animals in research thanks to new technological advances like 3-D printers, adult stem cell research, and a technology that mimics standard human muscular functions.

Hopefully with time, all research institutions will adopt these new animal-free research methods and end animal experimentation for good. In the interim though, we as consumers can support cruelty-free products and charities and urge our universities and labs to make the change and switch to animal-free research tools and technologies.

Image source: Rama / Wikipedia Commons