How many animals are used in research?

In Great Britain in 2018, 3.52 million procedures were carried out involving living animals. Rats, mice and fish account for 93% of this figure but other animals, including dogs and monkeys, are also used. In this context, the term procedures means:

  • Using animals in scientific studies, such as experiments to increase scientific knowledge, medical research and safety testing (see How are animals used in research? for more details).
  • Breeding animals whose genes have mutated or been modified – these animals are used to produce genetically altered offspring that are used in research, rather than being used themselves.

The actual number of animals used is lower than the number of procedures because individual animals may undergo more than one procedure.

Source: Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals Great Britain 2018

How has the number of procedures changed?

The annual number of procedures decreased in the late 1990s, hitting a low of 2.62 million in 2001. After that, the number increased again, and it has remained around 4 million for the last few years, with some year-on-year fluctuations. These numbers are affected by factors such as global research trends, the development of new technologies and the research funding climate.

What about the rest of the world?

It is hard to get an accurate figure for the number of animals used or procedures performed worldwide because other countries collect this data differently and some do not collect it at all. In the European Union, the latest available data is for 2017, when nearly 10.7 million animals were used. In the USA, the reported number of animals used in 2017 was just under 800,000, but this figure is a huge underestimation because it does not include mice, rats, fish and birds.

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