Response to the University of Nottingham on Animal Experimentation

By Daisy Hall, Senior Researcher, Animal Justice Project.

Following our recent exposé on animal experiments carried out on campus, the University of Nottingham responded saying that the figure of 25,449 animals is not a fair ‘representation of the important scientific work’ they carry out. The university claims to be committed to reducing the number of animals they use in research, but rabbit, sheep and guinea pig experiments have increased at the University of Nottingham since 2015. Ninety-five per cent of experiments carried out on campus were on species that are significantly different from humans, such as mice.

A spokesperson for the university stated researchers are “committed to ensuring that no animals are caused unnecessary suffering” as a result of experimental procedures. However, we uncovered that over 130 experiments were classified as ‘severe’, which is the highest level of suffering that can be inflicted on animals according to the Home Office. These procedures cause extreme impairment of the well-being of the animal, along with brutal pain and distress.

As the university spokesperson stated, arthritis certainly is a debilitating condition, which can have a devastating impact on a person’s life. But the current research using animals, such as that carried out at the University of Nottingham, can merely guide how a human could respond to the drugs/treatment. These procedures cannot lead researchers to accurately predict the human response, since there are many interspecies differences between rodents and humans.

The university claims that animal research has made a “vital contribution to advances in medicine and surgery”, but all too often animal research leads to inaccurate results – with useful drugs being left on the ‘cutting room floor’ when animals respond badly to the medicines. Another common problem is that drugs are safely passed in animal trials but then go on to harm, or even kill, humans.

Some examples of the differences between mice and humans are listed here:

  • In 2014, researchers at the university of California discovered that a significant number of mouse genes do not behave like their human counterparts;
  • Only half of human genomic DNA aligns to mouse genomic DNA. Chimpanzees, by comparison, match 96 per cent;
  • Mice and humans share approximately 70 per cent of the same protein-coding gene sequences, though these genes constitute just 1.5 per cent of their respective genomes;
  • Whilst core genomic programs were largely conserved between mice and humans, genes and their underlying regulatory programs have changed significantly over time. Each species has evolved to find different ways to do some of the same things.