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E-petitions calling on the government to end the use of animals for toxicity tests and prioritise non-animal methods (NAMs) (633591) and ban the use of dogs for testing and research purposes (645885) will be debated on 19 February 2024. The debate will be held in Westminster Hall and will be opened by Elliot Colburn MP.

Animal experiments

In 2022, there were 2.76 million completed procedures involving living animals in Great Britain. The annual number of procedures has been falling steadily since 2015, a year in which 4.1 million procedures on animals were carried out. Numbers increased between 2020 and 2021 but this represented a return to the trend as activity fell during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2022, there were 4,122 experimental procedures involving dogs, 4,014 of which involved beagles. Seven in ten procedures on dogs in 2022 were for the purpose of regulatory research, which includes toxicity testing; the remainder were for basic research or translational/ applied research.

Further information can be found in the Library briefing on Animal experiment statistics published 26 July 2023.


The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA) regulates the use of protected animals in any experimental or other scientific procedure which may cause pain, suffering, distress or lasting harm to the animal. ASPA requires the expected benefits from a research project to outweigh the costs of animal suffering, and only permits the use of animals where no viable alternative research method is available.

The 3Rs (replacement, reduction and refinement) are a set of principles that aim to make research involving animals more humane. These principles are embedded in ASPA. The standard conditions set out in licences for conducting animal research require licence holders to carry out their activities in a way that is consistent with these principles.

Non-animal methods

Several terms are used to describe alternative methods for scientific research. These include non-animal methods, new approach methodologies, non-animal technologies and human-specific technologies. All of these terms refer to research and testing methods that do not involve animals.

Alternatives to animal testing include using human cell cultures, ‘organs-on-a-chip’ that mimic human organs, computer modelling and human volunteers.

Proponents of NAMs emphasise their potential benefits over animal methods. Animal Free Research UK has highlighted the potential for alternative methods based on human biology to improve and speed up the development of new treatments for human diseases. Cruelty Free International is a charity that campaign for an end to animal testing and the use of alternative methods. Using data from 2021, they have reported on a number of animal procedures that have been carried out, despite alternative methods being available.

Other organisations, including universities which undertake medical research using animals have drawn attention to the limitations of non-animal methods. The University of Oxford has highlighted the need to use animals to understand the complexity of living bodies. Understanding Animal Research, a non-profit organisation that aims to improve understanding of how and why animals are used in research, has argued that animal research is sometimes necessary to make medical advances.

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