The annual statistics on animal research were published on 16 July, and revealed that there was an 8% rise in animal experiments in 2012.
This report has been met with criticism of the government's failure to deliver on their commitment to "reduce the use of animals in scientific research". The head of animals in the Home Office's science regulation unit declared that "we are reducing the use of animals in many areas and we are working on a delivery plan that will tease out what is meant by the phraseology of the commitment", notably, was taken as a "backtrack from the commitment to reduce the use of animals in absolute terms and replace it with a promise to try really hard to reduce the use of animals wherever possible" by the national press.
Much less attention seems to have been given to the issue of animal rights, interestingly, largely because the annual report highlighted certain key facts making the debate less emotional. Firstly, for the first time, there were more procedures on genetically modified ("GM") animals than on non-GM animals, which is relevant because if the figure for GM experiments was excluded, there would be a 2% decrease in non-GM experiments. The Home Office's science regulation units initiative to start recording actual pain suffering will soon tell us more about this, and is hoped to prove that a significant number of GM-animals suffer mildly or hardly at all, which would lessen the moral concerns animal testing traditionally brings out. Under the current system, animal experiments already have to get a project licence based on the extent and invasiveness of their research, and of those only 1% are classified as substantial. The report was therefore able to mitigate any controversy over animal rights by detailing the nature of the experiments taking place.
The final point of debate that emerged from the publication of this report is whether animal testing is the best way forward. Dominic Wells, from the Royal Veterinary College, explained that research in treating diseases is developing extremely fast, making us "the victims of our own success and this has inevitably led to the use of more animals." But while some see animal testing as " an essential part of helping us understand disease and develop much-needed new treatments", such as Dr Ted Bianco, acting director of the Welcome Trust, others doubt its accuracy and urge for more funding enabling the development of "better, human-related models", as argued by Geraldine Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College .