Understanding Animal Research

Numbers of animals

GM mouse There were just over four million scientific procedures using animals in 2013 in the UK. The exact figure was 4,121,582. The number of animals used is slightly less as some animals are used more than once. This does not happen often, and is strictly controlled.

The annual number of animal experiments is now about the same as it was 20 years ago, having gone down substantially between 1988 and 1998, but then levelling off and rising.

To put the figures into perspective, although the number of animal procedures increased by one million (over one third) in the 12 years to 2009, UK expenditure on biomedical research more than doubled in real terms over the same period.

Animal procedures 1960 - 2012

The recent rises in animal procedures are mainly due to the increased production and use of animals with genetic modifications or defects (many fall into the 'breeding' category). The numbers of genetically normal animals have been quite level this century.

In 2013 there was a rise of 0.3% in the overall number of procedures.

International estimates

Trying to estimate the numbers of animals used in research worldwide is difficult because many countries do not provide comprehensive statistics. However, we know that the major centres for research are the USA (about 20 million procedures), EU including the UK (about 12 million procedures), Japan (about 5 million procedures), and that animals are also used in research in Canada (2 million), Switzerland (less than 1 million) and Australia (less than 1 million).

A generous estimate would be that the rest of the world might carry out 10 million animal procedures every year. Therefore the total worldwide maximum is unlikely to exceed 60 million animal procedures per year.

Further information

Please see our other pages that break down the numbers of animals used in UK research according to species and areas of research, and explore the major contribution of more and more GM animals to advances in science and medicine.

The detailed annual government statistical report from the Home Office is also available online.


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Last edited: 10 July 2014 15:03