The good, the bad…
Animal Justice Project contacted 110 universities between April and June 2016 to gather information about animal experiments carried out at these places over the previous year. Using the Freedom of Information Act, we asked how many animals, and what types of animals had been used during 2015, and for the universities to share meeting minutes, reports and ethical review body correspondence with us.
Around 10 per cent of universities contacted by Animal Justice Project failed to respond at all (Figure 1). And out of the 90 per cent or so universities that did respond, 61 universities stated that they do carry out animal research – including prestigious universities such as University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Cardiff University. Some universities claim not to use animals, though they, like Manchester Metropolitan University, may cooperate with universities that do.
Information provided by the universities that responded to us revealed over a MILLION, or, to be precise, 1,750,463, animals were used in one year alone. The actual number however is likely to be even greater as some universities refused us any information.
Freedom of Information responses from Universities:
Pie chart illustrates responses by the 110 universities that were sent Freedom of Information requests by Animal Justice Project in 2016.
… and the ugly
In an apparent ugly effort to conceal information from Animal Justice Project, some universities, including the University of Edinburgh, University of Cambridge, University of Birmingham and University College London – which later published figures on their own websites anyway [1, 2, 3, 4] – refused to provide meeting minutes to us. Some universities, such as Cambridge, considered themselves exempt from providing the requested information! The government department, Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), did the same. Following our request for meeting minutes, and despite us stating clearly that we do not seek data that would identify those under the institution’s employ, The University of Glasgow told us:
“There is little or no public interest in providing information that may identify individuals, however indirectly, thereby risking their safety and wellbeing. The University therefore concludes that the public interest is in withholding the information and consequently the exemption under section 39(1) applies.”
University College London went further, stating:
“Whilst of course UCL accepts Animal Justice Project would not use the information in this way and is a lawful campaigning organisation, disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act is disclosure to the world at large .. UCL considers that animal rights extremists would be likely to use the information requested above as a pretext to escalate their campaign against animal experimentation”, “in the hands of animal rights extremists, it is likely to be distorted or manipulated so as to incite hatred and intimidate members or associates of UCL” and finally “there is a high possibility that the release of such information would be likely to endanger health and safety of individuals, given animal rights extremists’ propensity to engage in violence and intimidatory tactics in the past.”
Eight of the universities who denied us the information we requested, or claimed we were unable to publicise information, are signed onto the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research . These universities have therefore committed to ‘help the public understand more about animal research’. Whilst some universities refused Animal Justice Project but went on to make public their annual statistics on their websites, it is not ‘open’ to refuse anyone information about the experiments under their watch. Some of these universities, such as the University of Birmingham, have also made additional statements on their websites about transparency .
Three signees of the Concordat which flat out refused to send Animal Justice Project any of the information we requested are Royal Veterinary College, University of Southampton and University of Manchester.
Attempts by a university (or any institute carrying out animal research) to hide what is taking place at their laboratories is out of sorts with any commitment of transparency. Animal research is a publicly-funded practice and Animal Justice Project believes the public have a right to know about it.
Watch a video by Cruelty Free International on the need for transparency (© Cruelty Free International).
Table of victims
|University||Number of victims|
|University of Oxford||226,194|
|University of Edinburgh||212,695|
|University College London||202,554|
|University of Cambridge||181,080|
|King’s College London||175,296|
|Imperial College London||101,179|
|University of Sheffield||82,512|
|University of Cardiff||52,564|
|University of Glasgow||49,082|
|University of Birmingham||47,657|
Table 1. Table of Victims lists the universities using the most animal victims in the UK. Note: all figures come from either FOI requests by Animal Justice Project, or the university’s own websites
The University of Oxford, perhaps unsurprisingly, tops them all in the Table of Victims which lists the number of animal victims used (and probably killed) inside university laboratories (Table 1). The number of animals used at Oxford is staggering – over 220,000 in one year alone. This shameful figure is closely followed by that of University of Edinburgh. Which used over 212,000 animals over the course of the same year. University College London comes third – using over 202,000 animals, and University of Cambridge and King’s College London come fourth and fifth, both again using over 150,000 animals. These numbers exclude the universities who have refused Animal Justice Project their figures, such as University of Bristol.
Universities in London used by far the largest number of animals than any other area our researchers looked at (Figure 2). In just one year, between the seven London universities we sent FOIs to, almost 540,000 animals were used. This is an unacceptable number of victims. In comparison, all of the ten universities we looked at in Scotland used a lower (but still very high) number of animals – over 360,000.
In Scotland, the University of Edinburgh is the biggest user of animals (also the second in the entire country), followed by University of Glasgow and University of Dundee (Figure 3). In Wales, Cardiff University is overwhelmingly the highest user of animals (using over 52,000 animals in the one year alone) – over 50 times more than Swansea University! (Figure 4).
Cardiff University states: “We are increasingly able to use alternative methods of research, and are at the international forefront of developing many of these methods. We are also committed to the principles of replacement, refinement and reduction – the 3Rs.”
The figures obtained do not reflect this statement regarding the university’s ‘commitment’ to the 3R’s.
In the North of England, University of Newcastle is the biggest user of animals, followed by the University of Liverpool (Figure 5). In Yorks and Humberside, University of Sheffield is the largest user (also the seventh in the entire country) (Figure 6). In Eastern England, Cambridge is the worst culprit – and is fourth overall (Figure 7) – and Queen’s University Belfast exploits the most animals for research in Northern Ireland (Figure 8). In the South West, University of Exeter is the largest user (Figure 9) and in the West Midlands, the University of Birmingham tops them all and is tenth in the entire country (Figure 10).
Numbers are lives
Even ONE victim is too many in our eyes. Sadly, to the government and research industry, each life is just a number. In July 2016, as part of our #NumbersAreLives initiative, Animal Justice Project published details of the Home Office Annual Statistics in the Huffington Post and on social media, which showed an immense 4.14 million experiments were carried out on animals during 2015. That is a seven per cent increase from the year before.
Experiments conducted on monkeys was up 12 per cent in 2015 and pigs up by a whopping 50 per cent. Nearly half of completed experiments related to the breeding of genetically-altered animals. 3.04 million procedures were completed using mice, 268,522 procedures using rats, 14,155 using rabbits, 4,555 using dogs, 561,424 using fish and 3,612 using monkeys. Universities accounted for 48 per cent (1.98 million) of experiments, and held 78 per cent of the 3,173 Project Licences in Britain.
 University of Edinburgh website. 2016. Animal Research. Annual Statistics. [online] Available from: www.ed.ac.uk/research/animal-research/facts-figures/how-many [Accessed 5 August 2016].
 University of Cambridge website. 2016. FAQs. [online] Available from:www.cam.ac.uk/research/research-at-cambridge/animal-research/faqs [Accessed 5 August 2016].
 University of Birmingham website. 2016. FAQs. [online] Available from: www.birmingham.ac.uk/facilities/bmsu/faq/index.aspx [Accessed 5 August 2016].
 Understanding Animal Research website. 2016. Concordat on Opness on Animal Research. [online] Available from: ww.understandinganimalresearch.org.uk/policy/concordat-openness-animal-research [Accessed 29 July 2016].
 University College London website. 2016. [online] Available from: www.ucl.ac.uk/animal-research/facts-figures [Accessed 5 August 2016].
 University of Birmingham website. 2016. About Biomedical Services Unit (BMSU). [online] Available from: www.birmingham.ac.uk/facilities/bmsu/about/index.aspx [Accessed 29 July 2016].
 Cardiff University website. 2016. Animal Research [online] Available from: www.cardiff.ac.uk/research/our-research-environment/integrity-and-ethics/animal-research [Accessed 29 July 2016]
 Home Office. 2016. Annual Statistics of Scientific Procedures on Living Animals . Great Britain 2015. [online] Available from: www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/537708/scientific-procedures-living-animals-2015.pdf [Accessed 29 July 2016].
 Imperial College London website. 2016. Numbers and types of animals. [online] Available from: www.imperial.ac.uk/research-and-innovation/about-imperial-research/research-integrity/animal-research/numbers [Accessed 12 August 2016].
Figure 2,3 and 4. Pie charts illustrating the numbers of animals used at universities in London, Scotland and Wales.
Figure 5 and 6. Pie charts illustrating the number of animals used at universities in Northern England and Yorks and Humberside.
Figure 7, 8, 9 and 10. Pie charts illustrating the number of animals used at universities in the East of England, Northern Ireland, South West and West Midlands.