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Today, the department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) published the results of their latest biennial survey, carried out by Ipsos MORI, investigating public awareness of, and attitudes towards, the use of animals in scientific research, as well as the possible alternatives.

Of the 969 respondents questioned in March 2014, the majority can accept the use of animals in research for medical purposes where there are no alternatives - for example tests on cells and tissues in culture, computer modelling, or MRI scanning.

However, the results also indicate that 68% don't feel adequately informed, especially about efforts to find alternatives to using animals and to improve animal welfare.

The bioscience sector recognises the public appetite to find out more and is already responding. In October 2012, the Society of Biology and over 40 other organisations signed a Declaration on Openness on Animal Research and in May 2014, the Concordat on Openness on Animal Research in the UK was launched with 72 signatories from all bioscience sectors. That figure has now reached 81.

The Society of Biology was closely involved with the development of the Concordat and supports the use of animals in research when properly regulated and when no alternatives are available. Such research has directly contributed to medical and veterinary benefits including development of vaccines, antibiotics, and pioneering medical procedures that save and improve the quality of many human and animal lives. We actively support progress towards 'the 3Rs': reducing, replacing and refining the use of animals in research.

Professor Dominic Wells FSB, chair of the Animal Science Group (ASG), a Special Interest Group of the Society of Biology, said:

"The continued public support for the use, when necessary, of animals in humane experimental research is an important finding of this poll. It is also clear that there is an appetite for more information on this issue, and there is a need for accurate information to dispel misapprehensions. The widespread support within the science community to adopt the Concordat on Openness will ensure that more information on the uses and consequences of animal research is more readily available.

"More information on how research is regulated is also vital. It was surprising that 50% of the public agree with the statement that 'Scientific research involving animals sometimes goes on without an official licence'. In the UK, research using animals is regulated by the Home Office and can only be performed with a comprehensive license after training. Proposed experiments are subject to ethical review at the application stage and regular review thereafter. Replacing, refining and reducing animal use in research (the 3Rs) has been a cornerstone in UK practice for some time. The new drive towards greater openness will illuminate this and offer opportunities for debate and presentation of animal research information that will meet a public need."

Animal Research Facts
(Source: Department for BIS)

  • There is a strong scientific case for the carefully regulated use of animals in medical research and it is a legal requirement for every new prescription medicine to be tested on animals before it is tested and used in people.
  • Cosmetics testing has been banned in the UK since 1998, and is now not allowed anywhere in the EU. No cosmetics sold in the UK have been tested on animals.
  • Most animal research is carried out in universities although private companies also do some testing, there are many reasons for this, including to ensure that drugs are safe enough to be trialled in humans, but a lot of research is done to understand more about how the body works.
  • 98% of research is carried out on rats, mice and fish. Less than 0.5% of research is carried out on dogs, cats and monkeys.
  • If research can be done with an alternative rather than an animal then the alternative must be used.

The full report can be viewed on the Ipsos MORI website where pdf versions can also be found: