Each year inside British laboratories, around 4 million animals undergo experiments that may cause “pain, suffering, distress and lasting harm”. These experiments include procedures on rodents, rabbits, cats, dogs, horses, pigs, primates, birds, reptiles and fish.
Experiments that are considered unlikely to cause pain do not need to be licensed and are therefore not included in the annual statistics; nor does this figure include the additional millions who are bred and then destroyed as surplus to requirements.
Many alternatives to the use of live animals exist in research, but humane science is under-funded and there is a general lack of awareness surrounding the subject. As well as saving the suffering of countless animals, alternatives to animal tests are more efficient, reliable and scientifically valid. Unlike crude, archaic animal tests, non-animal methods usually take less time to complete, cost only a fraction of what the animal experiments they replace cost and are not plagued with species differences that make extrapolation difficult or impossible.
In addition to the invasive research carried out by multi-billion pound pharmaceutical companies, universities and charities, approximately 5–10% of experiments carried out are classified as “behavioural”. These experiments include psychological research where animals are separated from their mothers to study the effects of maternal deprivation, cognitive bias research where animals are kept in deprived living conditions to see the impact it has upon their psychological wellbeing, and experiments that intentionally subject the animals to different stressors to look at their response.